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When it comes to gardening - baby steps

My children are great at eating their vegetables. So much so that sometimes I cringe at buying a $3 container of cherry tomatoes, knowing they will gobble them up in one session if I allow. So this summer I decided to plant a garden. Okay, it's really just a patch, but it's my first step to a real garden.

Early in May my son and I went to a local nursery and picked out two of each of the following plants: strawberry, cucumber, large tomatoes, grape tomatoes and one cilantro plant for fun. We planted with love and watered with love, when we remember that is.

As the summer is now half way through we are beginning to see produce appear. As of now we have enjoyed two cucumbers from our garden and will have several more ready soon. One bright red strawberry was also consumed, okay I snuck it without them looking knowing this is probably the only one I will get. And the tomato plants are starting to bear cute small green fruits (it is really a fruit right?) and my children watch as their mouths begin to water.

I want my kids to be a part of the gardening process. Sure sometimes when I have my son water the patch he soaks the plants a little too much, okay the plants are swimming. Other times when I'm pulling weeds I catch my daughter with a shovel in the patch, just trying to help, she almost digs out everything we've been nurturing for the last 3 months! My patience gets easily tested. I really don't want to ban them from the patch or put up a "children keep out" fence so they have a viewing area only. I started the garden for them to enjoy and remind myself that I need to teach them what is a good amount of water, or that digging up the plants is not quite the same as pulling a weed.

This summer I'm hoping we can see the full cycle of the produce we planted. Last summer our patch consisted of only tomatoes and unfortunately we never retrieved a ripe tomato from the plants. This is because my children lack patience, sounds familiar. Every time a green tomato had the slightest hint of red, they would pick it and eat it on the spot. By the time I could stop them, the picking had already taken place. I assumed once they ate the green piece of fruit, or vegetable, whatever, they would be disgusted since it wasn't ripe and they would cease picking early. I was wrong! Apparently they not only enjoy ripe, red, juicy tomatoes, they also like green, hard, tomatoes!

As our second year of planting progresses I think they are learning to watch, water and weed the plants, but not to pick the fruit as soon as it appears. Each time they see a new green tomato or cucumber they get excited and come running to tell me. And I can't even describe their joy at watching, patiently, the white strawberries, knowing soon they will be able to pick and enjoy them.

Other than the cucumbers which they enjoy cut up, I doubt any of the other produce will even make it into my house to get washed prior to consumption. There will be no tomatoes on salads or strawberries on ice cream. No, once I give them the nod to pick their quick hands will do so and go straight to their mouths to enjoy. But, this year they hopefully will let the produce at least ripen. Next year we will start working on the concept of washing prior to eating. Baby steps in gardening with children, I guess.