The Reality of Gardening with Kids

by - March 06, 2011

When you ever see the bucolic photographs in gardening magazines where docile children are gently brushing the tops of feathery leaves while their curls glisten in the late afternoon light, do you ever roll your eyes or do you wistfully long for those magical moments in your own back yard? The truth is, those moments are fleeting with a preschooler and better left for the child models, the professional photographer and the rolling landscape you will never afford.

In our garden, often whining drowns out the chirping birds, feathery leaves have been cut by "child-safe" scissors, and the watering hose is left to blast the same darn spot until a hole forms next to my rosemary. Don't let my pretty pictures fool you. I wrestle the Man-child for the hose. The Baby shoves mulch and dirt in his mouth. I occasionally shout, "No more whining!" The same questions get asked twenty-seven times in a row, even when I've already answered them.

So how do I manage a peaceful and productive time in the garden while both boys are with me? Here are several tricks I've found.

With the Man-child, he's at this glorious age of carrying out story lines and playing characters. Any object, such as a spade or a stick can become something entirely different. For the most part, he's happy entertaining himself, but occasionally he needs me to join him in the fun. If he's bored, I ask him to come teach me how to do something.

Simple Tasks
When the three of us go out, I have to keep my own work to simple tasks. My attention is divided, and I can't commit to something that requires concentration for a long period of time. The same goes with projects for the Man-child. He's very eager to help, but he also is very quick to decide he is over it.

Teaching boundaries
I love that the new garden has much paths. These are now roads for the cars and help the Man-child understand where he's allowed to walk and where he needs to watch out for plants. He also has an area that is all his. He can dig, he can trample, and hopefully he will learn to care for it.

Padding the boundaries
The Baby doesn't understand paths yet. If there are plants that I really don't want him messing up, I move them back and plant lettuces or root crops in front. If he stuffs the romaine in his mouth, we are all winners!

Most of the time, fussiness can be tamed with a well-timed juice box and snack. It's good to have a small bench or table where they can sit down to eat or where a snack can be left out for casual grazing (watch for the bugs!)

Pretty Pictures
While the boys may be little devils now and then, I try to capture small moments of beauty so that I can look back later when we've all calmed down and appreciate the time spent.

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  1. Such a great thing to share with your kids and I love that you're writing about it. I will forever remember sitting in a pram in the garden while my mom did weeding as a child!

  2. TheconservatorygirlMarch 7, 2011 at 9:13 AM

    great tips! it'll be invaluable to glean from your wisdom!

  3. you are superwoman :-)

  4. Thank you so much for a dose of reality, as I try to venture into gardening with two boys. Your tips are brilliant, and I will definitely incorporate them as I work outside.

  5. Kristy, good luck in your gardening adventures! Keep me updated with how it goes and send me your own bits of advice along the way.

  6. Yo, I feel terrible for not having sent you any seeds yet. I'm a punk. But in my defense, I have two whiney kids and am scatterbrained.

  7. Thanks, lady. That is such a sweet memory! I saw a pram at the flea market this weekend! I saw pics of them used as planters, but setting a baby in them to watch the gardening is so much better.



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