Cultivating the Wild: Gardening with Kids

Amber Shehan May 22, 2022

When you get bored of a hobby, invite your little ones to join you. Let their bright view reawaken the magic for you, like the wee pixie has done for me with her first garden.

Screen Shot 2022-05-29 at 8.08.42 PM

The wee pixie is almost four years old, somehow! Time flies when you’re having fun – and changing diapers, kissing boo-boos, and playing with tons of clay and kinetic sand.

Last February I pulled out my big box o’garden supplies and seeds to make plans for the warming days, as is tradition. Admiring seed catalogs and sorting seeds are important actions that help me break out of my wintery depression! There’s something captivating about the potential in a pack of seeds, the assurance of the green returning, and the promise of flowers and bugs and baby birds in nests.

However, there was a little bit of doubt and cynicism nibbling at the back of my mind this year. “You’ve been so burnt out, why bother with a garden?” “What about your full-time job? You never take care enough of the garden to get anything out of it but frustration,” and “Get real, you are literally allergic to the sun, why bother?” Indeed, the past few years’ worths of summer gardens were lackluster and went mostly to weeds and the wilds.

Just then, the bright eyes of my little one shone on me and said, “Can I help make the garden?” It hit me like a ray of sunshine and I immediately agreed! The enthusiasm and immediacy of their desire to stick seeds in dirt and watch them grow rekindled a bit of magic in my heart and made me realize that I’d been taking myself and my hobbies far too seriously.

It’s fine to let the garden get out of hand, sometimes. Why not? I’m not going for any State Fair awards, nor do I depend on my garden to survive, so what’s the harm in casually experimenting by planting some of last year’s seeds even if I only enjoy one out of every five cucumbers? The wild things need to eat, too. And that includes pantless children (the picture is from two years ago).

Mistakes are part of life, and it is easy to get bogged down in feeling wrong and forget that they are a part of the learning process. I’ve made so many mistakes while gardening. I’ve harvested things too early or too late. I’ve accidentally weed-whacked baby plants that I’d forgotten about. I’ve killed so many innocent plants, but it was all in the pursuit of learning enough to eventually keep some of them alive and thriving!

Our garden this year is all about indulging curiosity. Early this spring, we hauled the nearly-forgotten old plastic turtle sandbox out from the shade of a spruce tree, chased the spiders out, and drilled the bottom with 1-inch holes for drainage. After we lined it with landscape cloth, we worked in tandem with our big and tiny wheelbarrows to bring dirt to fill it up. We watered in the dirt and added a bit more the next day and then waited for the soil to be warm enough to start planting.

The wee pixie and I planned her plot together, flipping through my catalogs and stockpiles of seeds. We started with mixed leaf lettuce, carrots, and peas. After I poked the holes, she planted the tiny seeds with tiny fingers. We covered them up and she blew them kisses, and then we watered them in.

We checked on her garden daily until there was finally a mist of tiny green seedlings! The delight of her squeals and happy dance was contagious and I could see the love of green growing things was cemented. Her enthusiasm gets the better of her though – when she brought me a handful of baby carrots that she pulled far too early, we had a good talk about patience and having to wait for the garden to be ready to harvest.

Now we’re having fresh lettuce greens every day, the carrots are growing bigger, and I had to add a few stakes and strings for the young peas to grow up.

We’ve had an unseasonably hot and wet spring, and some of the lettuce has already started to bolt and flower. The butterflies and moths love the simple little white flowers and we’re going to let them go to seed so we can save some for next year or a second autumnal planting.

In preparation for the new space that will appear as we remove the lettuce, the wee pixie and I sowed some bush cucumber plants and cayenne plants around the edges of the garden. Oh! Also a few Tom Thumb Nasturtiums, a beautiful deep reddish-black flower that has a delightful peppery flavor.

Wee Pixie also invited the faeries to her garden with some simple statuary that she loves to move around and play with, putting acorns or berries in the dish like little offerings. There are squeals and laughter every time a pillbug, worm, ant, or any other insect appears in her view.

Outside of the turtle garden, we’ve planted a few pots full of things – some potatoes that started sprouting in the cabinet, some garlic and onions from our kitchen, and sunflower seeds just about everywhere we could find a spot to plant them. We used a mix of Mammoth Giant sunflowers and a smaller, multi-headed sunflower, and they’re already shooting up like rockets. There are pots of dill, tulsi, and sugar baby pumpkins! We can’t wait to see what works out, or what doesn’t.

The disappointment when things go wrong is part of the learning experience with gardening and farming. We had one of our hens go broody and since we have a new rooster, we got overexcited about baby chickens. It was all that the wee pixie would talk about, even stopping strangers in the grocery store to exclaim about her baby chick-wins! Unfortunately, Nervous Nellie had a change of heart and stopped sitting on her eggs after about a week or so. The wee pixie even offered to sit on the eggs herself. Ah, well. Maybe Nellie’s just not ready. We’ll keep waiting for some fuzzy little friends to get hatched down the line!

We might not have any guarantee that what we sow will come to fruition, but it is nice to try. It is also a blast revisiting the experience through young senses. And you can’t deny – her sense of decor is excellent. Just look at our new scarecrow!

Sign up for the Herbal Academy’s Nature Camp for Kids!  This online course is a 4-week journey to explore herbalism just for kids in the Online Nature Camp: Herbalism for Kids program. 

Get updates from Pixie's Pocket: brewing and herbs in your inbox:

Amber Shehan

Hi! I'm Amber Pixie, and this is my site. Enjoy the recipes, information, posts, and please feel free to message me if you have questions!

Leave a Comment