How many times have you wandered the endless toy aisles at Christmas and was overwhelmed by all the selections that you just knew your kids or grandkids would play with once and then toss aside? For years I have searched for something that kids would cherish, that would help them along life’s way… in other words, just be something more than “stuff.”
I am not a scrooge, it is not about the money, but rather it is about value…and not the monetary kind. Perhaps this year I have succeeded in finding at least one item of that nature.
It was right there before me all the time. It is true, that sometimes you cannot see the solution because it is too close. I found mine where it has been all along, in the garden where my soul lives.
Of course, gardening and farming has always been close to my heart and I have always thought it sad that kids growing up in today’s world aren’t exposed to the old ways and hard work that have always been an integral part of farming life. It’s not their fault because most “farming” that kids, especially those that grow up in the city, see is the big tractor or combine in the field with the farmer enjoying air conditioning (or heat), music and probably eating lunch while in the fields. Sometimes they don’t even have to steer!
Yea, what is so hard about farming? They have no idea of the blood, sweat and tears that make it possible for them to eat every day.
So, it dawned on me, why not show them, up front and personal what it takes for them to eat that bowl of corn flakes or whatever. After all, hands-on is always the best way to learn. Thus, the idea for the “garden in a box” was born.
Actually, it is pretty simple, I wanted to gather everything for kids to be able to plant a few seeds, nurture them and watch the miracle of how a simple dormant seed can multiply many times over and provide fresh produce. It doesn’t require a lot of space. Probably, the less space you have is all the better because the idea is to learn how just a little piece of earth can produce much. A container works equally as well.
I started back in the summer buying a few seed packets of lettuce, radishes, carrots and a few flower packets of marigolds and zinnias. Anything that suits your fancy is fine as long as it does not vine out like cucumbers or melons. The idea is to keep it in a tight space, so anything that grows straight up is best.
I also went for flowers that grow fast and is vibrant. Nothing catches a child’s eye more than color. Marigolds and zinnias fit this bill and they keep producing most of the summer. It’s even better if you make it personal and incorporate some of the child’s favorite veggies.
Next, I picked up a pair of small gardening gloves, also in bright colors. Then I added a small spade and three-tined garden fork. To round it out, no garden is complete without a watering system so a small watering can rounded out the mix.
Every gardener knows that for anything to grow, you also need to fertilize it. I saved an old plastic corn starch container, the kind where the lid screws tightly on. However, any container that can be sealed tightly would work. I put a large label on one side and then spray painted the outside and lid, taking care not to cover the label. Before the paint dried, I sprinkled glitter over the paint.
When the paint was dry, I wrote “magic growing powder, do not open until ready to plant” on the label. Who doesn’t like a little magic and isn’t fertilizer and the whole seed sprouting thing a little magical in its own right!
Then, I wrote a note telling them what all the stuff in the box was for and the real important thing was that they could not open the “magic powder” until spring…not even for a quick look or the seeds would not grow. Hopefully, this will save having fertilizer all over the house! Next, I put everything in a larger box and wrapped it with a big bow on top.
Those of us who are entrusted with even a little piece of God’s earth know how special it is. Hopefully, this will help even city kids to know the joy that we gardeners and farmers know. It will be interesting to see next spring if the kids tend to their small two-foot square gardens or not.
Perhaps this gift is more for me than them, but at least I will know that I tried to share the magical joy of growing things from a tiny seed. And I will also know that I didn’t buy the latest gadget that will be hauled to the landfill in a short time. I hope I did well.