Ear to the Ground: The Insider Dirt to Gardening in Upstate NY

Gardening with Kids: Preserving the Bounty

by cathym on September 9, 2018

by Valerie Shaw; artwork by Andrew Monrad

Fully open dahlia bloom

As the scorching days of summer yield to the cooler, shorter days of early autumn, some of the most wonderful flower displays and veggie harvests are just beginning. The big favorites around here, squash, sunflowers, and tomatoes, are drowning us in their cheerful abundance. If you’re into preserving foods, you may have your shelves lined with colorful jars of pickles and jellies, or your freezers full of plump berries. Your kids might be delighted to discover that not only can you keep the yummy harvest over the winter, but you can keep parts of your beautiful garden preserved to enjoy later too! Here are some fun ideas for savoring all of your late summer gardening adventures.

Firework design created using unopened sedum blossom

Garden journals. These can be really fun for kids. Using a simple notebook, binder, photo binder, or any pre-made version, create a scrapbook or journal that documents all the great things about your garden. You can buy disposable cameras and let your kids be roving photographers, then “publish” them in a fun scrapbook. You’ll be able to see the garden from their eyes. Use stickers, scraps of
fabric, used seed packets, and doodles. Your kids will love pulling out their garden journal year after year, and be encouraged to try their hand at it again next spring.

Recipe Book. Whether it’s a five-page handwritten booklet or a chock-full book you have printed and bound at Staples, making a family recipe book is a great and delicious way to connect your garden to your table. Kids can be encouraged to make their own signature salads, vegetable dips, pizza sauce, or zucchini brownie recipes. Let them come up with fabulous names for their dishes! Having your kids choose the recipes will encourage them to get involved, try new veggies, and take pride in their hard work. They can include drawings or photos, and make a special cover for it too. If there are other gardeners or cooks in the family, your kids could collect favorite recipes from them as well, making it a truly memorable keepsake! These make terrific presents for grandparents and other family
members for the holiday season.

Succulent twirled to create a spiral

Painting with flowers. Head on out to the garden and snip a big bouquet of flowers or plants with interesting leaves. Using poster or acrylic paints, use the flowers as paintbrushes. For toddlers, this is a great activity to use with finger paints. Older kids might enjoy practicing on paper, then moving on to using the flowers with acrylic paints on canvases. My kids really like the mini canvases. They’re smaller and less intimidating. If you buy the canvases with thick wooden walls, you don’t need to worry about framing them; a tack on the wall and you’ve got a display! Simply have them paint on a solid background color (usually a pale color, like yellow or light blue works well), and then apply flowers dipped in paint to make patterns. Stiffer petaled flowers, like zinnia or mums, work very well, although don’t rule out anything until you try it! Again, these make great presents for your child to give to others, and telling the story from the planting of a seed to the making of a beautiful painting is a lovely way to build pride in hard work and dedication.

Another fun thing to try with flower painting is making flower shirts. Choose a plain tee or sweatshirt. Using the same technique as the canvas painting, dip the flowers into fabric or acrylic paints and make a fun pattern on the shirt. When the snow is up to their knees, they can wear their flower shirt and remember the time you all sat around in your tank tops and sandals, playing with petals! Spring might not seem so far away, after all.

Valerie Shaw is a gardener, YMCA youth coach, and homeschool mom in West Monroe, NY. She shares her garden with two adventurous children and a patient husband, to whom she has promised that this last goat, Flora, is the final addition to their herd. At least until spring.

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