10 July 2012

The Family Garden

Welcome to the July 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Family Creations
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared crafts, recipes, and philosophies of creativity. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
Since purchasing a house in 2010 (less than two months prior to having my son), each year has been an opportunity to expand upon the meager gardening space my 0.145 acre lot allows. The first summer (I moved into the house in late June) was spent clearing the dense jungle that was the backyard - overgrown Rose-of-Sharon, droves of Raspberries that had crept under and through the fence, an abundance of seedling Maples, tall grasses, creepy Cleome; you name it, it was probably there. My first year, my mother helped clear the overgrowth and helped me haul my apartment-stairwell planters, which did moderately better once given open air and free access to all of the sunshine they could handle, plus more. I had a modest yield of tomatoes and peppers, a few assorted herbs. We were able to get a small vegetable garden in with more tomatoes, more peppers, peas, beans, and zucchini (yuck...). The following year, we expanded the garden, continued to clean-up, and prettied everything up, laying bricks to line the plots and planting a multitude more of variegated edibles and florals alike, with equally variegated results.

This year, my mother has helped with some additional expanding (and we'll do more in the fall to allow for a section of berries in the very back, along with grapes and maybe melons or squashes for next year), my vegetable garden is similar in constituents, and my herbal selection has expanded exponentially. One key addition this year was Nikola's help, which was precious to say the least, frustrating beyond belief at times, and wholeheartedly awesome to see him take interest.

If there is one thing (most) toddlers are good at, it's filling. Filling boxes. Filling buckets. Filling cups. You get it. (Spilling is also a mastered skill at this point, but we ended up not using that one so much). If I thought he was a copycat before, this series of experiences took the cake. From helping with filling pots to planting seeds to watering, he's all about it, which has transformed the gardening experience from my mother helping me to Nikola and I working together to take care of *our* garden (with, of course, a lot of help from my mother, the gardening expert, still).

I tried to involve Nikola as much as possible in as many facets as possible in setting up the garden this year. He helped me pick out doo-dads for the garden (to keep the birds away), voiced in opinion on berries to plant ("boo-bee-ees" aka blueberries), helped me decide on seeds (he picked out the midnight nasturtiums and fire-mix calendula), had a say in the pots (rainbow mix, of couse), and did his fair share of transferring potting mix to the pots and sprinkling seeds. He even helped plant some started flowers for the large pots at the front door. Take a look at the pictures of all of the great ways he was able to help out!

A garden, of course, is a process, not necessarily able to be completed in one short timeframe; instead, it evolves as needs and desires evolve and change. As we get into July, it might a little late, depending on where you live, to start a full-fledged garden, but it's not impossible. Here are some ideas that you might be able to incorporate even this late in the season (for MidWest U.S. anyways)...
-A helpful guide on some common herbs from The Ohio State University!
-Container gardens are super-easy and space-friendly, from HGTV!
-This is my favorite soil to use, whether in pots or filling spots - I know, I know, it's made my Scotts, but the price point is great ($1.39 per bag at Home Depot) and it's organic. I use it every year, and it works beautifully!
-A super great resource - What to Plant Now - that helps you plan out what to plant when, even with some tips on how to plant and what will do well in your climate/area!
-A cute resource from Colorado State University with ideas on how to involve children of all ages in gardening, with some nifty crafts and information on the benefits of gardening!
-Some information on harmful and beneficial "pests" and how to keep them under control - I personally like using marigolds to keep nasty insects at bay and used a putrescent egg product to keep the bunnies away this year.
[Just a little disclaimer: none of these links are sponsored or any of that jazz - just sites I like to peruse!]

It's definitely not too late to get a container garden with some yummy herbs started, so hop to it! You might be as amazed as I was on how adept your child may be in helping! Gardening not only provides relaxation (or so I'm told...) but can also be a means to be more self-sustained (with food *you* control!) and can help teach invaluable lessons to your child about the ways of the world. Another benefit is helping to ensure the survival of our dear friends the bees, especially if you are in an urban or suburban setting. I implore you to try it and tell me nothing good came of it! Garden on!

Got some tips to share? Tell us about them in the comments or on the FaceBook!
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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
  • Garden Soup — Bailey finds a way to help momma Katy (from Muse of a Daffodil) in the garden.
  • This One Time, I Tried To Make a Car — Ashley at Domestic Chaos tries once again to make something crafty from stuff around the house.
  • Pin-tastic creative ideas — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud shares how Pinterest is inspiring creativity in her family this summer.
  • Baby Hiccups In The Womb — Alinka at Baby Web shares one of the ways she bonds with her unborn baby.
  • Turtle Mosaics — Lyndsay at ourfeminist{play}school and her little family spend a quiet hour making a turtle mosaic inspired by the work of Melanie Mikecz.
  • Edible Art Plus 8 Art Supply Recipes — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares some natural, chemical-free art supply alternatives, which are gauranteed to be tons of fun for children of all ages. They taste great too!
  • A surprise art lesson — Tat at Mum in search has been taking art lessons from her 5-year-old son.
  • Memory Creation — Laura from Pug in the Kitchen talks about how her family aims to create as many memories as they can as a family.
  • A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words — Melissa at Momma Beer tries to replace cars with crafts.
  • My Creative Family: Sometimes Messy, Always Fun — Emily at S.A.H.M i AM embraces the messes that sometimes accompany creative play but admits you don't always have to get dirty to have fun.
  • Fun Family Learning: Constellation Cave Tutorial — Abbie at Farmer's Daughter gives step-by-step instructions for building a fun new twist on a cardboard box playhouse.
  • Cooking... Kind Of — ANonyMous at Radical Ramblings makes pizza with her daughter, hoping to inspire a love of cooking and encourage a bigger interest in food. As well as making mess and having lots of fun, of course!
  • Crockpot Refried BeansThat Mama Gretchen's family loves to experiment with new recipes, and today she's sharing a kitchen success!
  • Creating Memories — Andrea at Tales of Goodness reflects on how the best creations can emerge from just letting kids be kids.
  • Making Beautiful Things ... And Sometimes Just Average-Looking Ones — Tamara at Tea for Three looks for ways to add more craft and creativity into every day family life.
  • Making Fruit Leather Together — When Amy Willa at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work took some time to involve her children in the process of finally trying a fruit leather recipe stored on her Pinterest food board, she got more than just a scrumptious homemade snack as a result!
  • Making Glasses from Children's Art — Mandy at Living Peacefuly with Children used her children's artwork to make some very special glasses for her husband for Father's Day.
  • Preparing Family Meals Together — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares how she started the tradition of creating meals together with her children, which makes family gatherings more fun.
  • It's a trap! — Lauren at Hobo Mama shares the innovative snares her son and husband have set for her.
  • How To Make The Most Of A Very Wet Summer — Luschka at Diary of a First Child shows us the first few weeks of the Summer Camp At Home project for keeping boredom at bay.
  • Creating with... well, what do we have? — If necessity is the mother of invention, Momma Jorje thinks perhaps boredom is (or at least can be) the mother of creativity. In a pinch, she got creative with a household item to entertain herself and her toddler.
  • Creating Joy! Felt Counting Fish and other Fun — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle started creating Felt Counting Fish and then fell down the rabbit hole of fun with a number of other games.
  • I Am Going! (A Code Name: Mama Homemade Theater Production of Mo Willems' Elephant & Piggie book) — This might be the finest example of child and baby acting ever recorded. Enjoy this Mo Willems treasure via video from Dionna at Code Name: Mama.
  • DIY Summer Sleep Sack for Baby Tutorial — Shannon at GrowingSlower made an organic summer sleep sack for baby, and you can too with her easy tutorial.
  • Chalk It Up! — Amy at Anktangle recounts how an impulse buy has turned into a fun collaborative activity that she hopes will continue to foster creativity in the whole family.
  • The Family Garden — Excited that her son has been a big help in the garden this year, Ana at Pandamoly shares how her garden grows and offers up some secrets on how a toddler can be a great assistant in the garden.
  • Getting my craft on — In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, Jona at Life, Intertwined takes a trip down memory lane — and finds it in stitches.
  • Easy DIY Sandpit for Toddler Play — Christine at African Babies Don't Cry shares her easy DIY toddler sandpit tutorial.
  • Building Without Nails — Laura at Laura's Blog builds a swinging bar using just sticks and twine.
  • Family Talent Show — Erika at Cinco de Mommy holds an after-dinner family talent show.
  • Ar matey! Fun and Learning with Pirate Play. Positive Parenting Connection is sharing lots of really fun Pirate-themed learning activities for the whole family.


  1. First of all, I love love love your green theme (the actual color, not just the idea). Second of all, this makes me miss being a home owner. We moved for my husband's career and we left trees and a garden :( Thanks for reminding me that I CAN still grow things, even in a small rental house with very little backyard.

  2. You have it exactly right how gardening with a little kid is — the fun and the frustration! That really made me laugh, since at least I know I have company. :)

    Mikko likes filling, and also digging. Gardening with him and his friends is all about trying to direct the digging to appropriate places, and limit the filling: loads of seeds, floods of water, fertilizer out the wazoo. Ah, well, at least they're enjoying themselves!

  3. Lovely pictures.

    We've planted a few herbs and vegetables this year, mainly for my daughter's benefit; so she can get involved and learn where food comes from. We've had limited success so far. I've never been very 'green-fingered' and know very little about growing plants. But it's nice to have a go and learn along the way. :) About the only major success we've had so far is with the sage plant, which is growing so well I have to keep chopping it back. Ha ha.

  4. We love to garden too. My daughter is really quite helpful all around, whereas my toddler son is focused solely on watering. Either way, I agree wholeheartedly that it is a wonderful family creation. All this fun AND you still get the veggies!

  5. I'm so jealous of your garden ;) I've tried for 3 of the last 4 years to grow something, and it hasn't gone quite as planned. But I'm not giving up - someday! Maybe next year when Ailia is a toddler, she can help me fill our garden :)

  6. I LOVE this! It's great to see what you've done with your garden space, and it's awesome that your son was so involved in the whole process. I pinned your post to my Gardening/Botany Unit Study Pinterest Board at http://pinterest.com/debchitwood/gardening-botany-unit-study/

  7. What a great way to encourage little ones to love the garden!