Plants Sales Support Multidisciplinary Learning in Your Backyard

Community Plant Sales & Swap Support Local Causes & Embedded Learning

Tending to a family garden not only provides food for your family and adds beauty to your surroundings, but the process of growing and caring for plants brings with it ample opportunity to learn about everything from edible plants to soil science! Here in western Massachusetts, gardening season is just kicking into full swing – meaning it’s time to start planning and planting your family garden!

Before choosing envelopes of seeds and six-packs of seedlings, it’s important to create a plan for your garden. Without proper planning, plants might end up being overcrowded, poorly positioned, or not properly cared for. It might be most efficient to let garden planning be a task for adults, but involving children in the process can empower them with responsibility while offering multidisciplinary learning. Get kids thinking about annuals and perennials, and the benefits of permaculture and xeriscapes. Using tools such as Math in the Garden curriculum or naturalist Sharon Lovejoy’s book Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together with Children, families can discover ways for children to practice math, science, sustainability and literacy concepts all by participating in planning the family garden.

Another title that would be great to have in your family garden library is Slugs, Bugs, and Salamanders: Discovering Animals in Your Garden. Putting into context the concept of the food chain, this book will use the family garden as a launch into learning about pests and their natural predators.

Once you know where you’ll be growing your garden and what types of plants you’d like to put in them, commit to locally sourcing your plants. This time of year our region is rich in plant sales & swaps, giving families many options for obtaining locally-grown plants that have been dug up from the gardens and properties of other community members, local farms and community gardens.  Along side, six-pack containers filled with potting soil and starter plants, you might also find more interesting things like cuttings from trees and bushes, potted house plants, wildflowers & grasses, medicinal & culinary herbs, hand-preserved (dried and harvested) seeds, and plants that aren’t usually grown straight from seeds – like asparagus roots and rhubarb crowns.

Many of these plant sales are also fundraisers that support valuable community resources like libraries, schools and museums, and often times the community member whose garden the plant originates from is on hand to answer your questions and offer gardening tips. Even if you’re not gardening or your gardening space is very small, plant sales are a fun place to freely share gardening information with one another, supporting kids in their development of gardening skills. Check out these upcoming plant sales in Western MA!

Share Your Family Gardening Tips

How Does Your (Child’s) Garden Grow?

Northampton Community Gardens 17

Extremes like giant sunflowers or cherry tomatoes are good choices of plants for children to have in their gardens. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield

This is the first year our family will have a “family garden” where our daughter can have her very own little plot of dirt for digging and planting.  She’s very excited and already very proud of the row of sprouting beet and zinnia seeds she has planted.

  • Anyone else have or planning on having a space for your kids to garden? What are your plans or what have you figured out that works best?

Cynthia Davis Klemmer, the Children’s Education Coordinator at the Massachusetts Horticultural Societysuggests these gardening activity tips for families:

  • Start small.
  • Be willing to put up with a less-than-perfect looking garden.
  • Leave an area where kids can dig, even after planting.
  • Get some child-sized tools or plastic spoons.
  • Make a secret place in the garden for your kids.
  • Plant extremes like huge flowers (sunflowers), small veggies (cherry tomatoes), and fragrant plants (chocolate mint).
  • Teach your kids how to compost.
  • Share gardening how-to books and storybooks.

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