Promoting a Love of Dirt
By Jennie Holt
Gardening is more than a hobby for my farmer man and myself. We rely on our garden for food. We also look to the garden for renewed spirits and for the connection that it gives us to something far greater. I feel better when I can look down and see dirt in my fingernails.
Life can be hard; and then I go to the garden and realize that life is always reinventing itself. My best friend is dying of breast cancer, and the world has seemed unfair and unjust. Genetically modified crops, herbicides, pesticides, and the constant battle to have good honest food that is free from harmful substances is exhausting. It is easy to feel frustrated and to feel as if nothing we do will make a difference.
And then I go into our garden and work in the soil. I love the dirt. I love that it is teeming with hope and promise. I love that if you plant a seed in the dirt and water it, life happens. It is magic and it makes sense.
We bring the kids into the garden whenever we can. Our hope is that they, too, will see and feel the magic of dirt and gardens. Here are some unique things that you can do with kids to encourage a lifelong relationship with dirt.
Garden activities for kids:
- Grow a playhouse: Plant sunflowers in rows so that when they grow it will form a fort. Or build a teepee out of sticks and allow beans to grow up the poles.
- Grow for dress up: Play dress up in the garden and make a necklace or earrings out of flowers. String flowers together and form a headdress.
- Plant odd things: Plant things that kids have never seen or are unusual. Grow purple or yellow carrots or kohlrabi or Asian yard-long beans.
- Create a Scratch & Sniff Garden: Grow things like mint and spearmint and oregano and basil. Have them plant cilantro and marigolds. Take time with them smelling each and always offer them the opportunity to smell and taste.
- Grow a craft project: Grow cotton in different colors. Grow gourds that you can paint and flowers and berries that can be used for natural dyes.
- Garden in unusual containers: The wackier the better. Why not an old boot? Grow in old tires that they paint and five-gallon buckets.
Most of all, make it fun and relaxed. If they want to dig in the dirt then let it happen. Make finding worms a really, really big deal. Give them their own basket that they take with them and fill with their own special findings in the garden. Talk to them about good, honest, simple food and tell them why it is important to you. Let them explore and find the joy in getting filthy … head-to-toe dirty.
Share with them the magic of dirt.