Gardening with Children: What You Get for the Price of a Turnip Seed

Reader Contribution by S.M.R. Saia
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My three-year-old daughter has been my steadfast partner in the garden from the get-go. I really want her to learn what food actually is, and where it comes from, and I want her to enjoy being outdoors, getting wet and getting dirty (no problems there). So I really try to incorporate her into the daily garden chores as much as possible, for as long as I can maintain her interest. That said, there are days when the heat, a sinus headache, and my own gardening anxieties get the best of me.

Case in point, I made an early morning of it recently, trying to get our fall transplants in the ground while it was still cool, and while I still had the energy to do it. I have had a few of the seeds come up that I planted a few weeks ago – turnips and daikon, and it looks like some chard or lettuce – but not nearly as many as I had hoped.

After the weedy, sprawling mess that my spring/summer garden has become, the blank slate of a fall space comes as something of a relief.

New beginning! Fresh start! A second chance!

And yet, seed planting is always a little anxiety-provoking to me. I have a hard time with that period of time between dropping a seed in the dirt and seeing something green poke up its head. I can’t stand not being able to see the progress. What’s happening down there? Is it working? Why do some seeds seem to sprout within 24 hours of planting, and others of the same veggie and variety take weeks? When that first tiny speck of green finally pokes its head up out of the soil it’s always a great relief to me. I think that’s why when I found THIS, just moments after pointing out the new sprouts to my daughter on that morning, I was less than thrilled.

I didn’t fuss – I explained.

Sure Mom, call it what you want.

But, let bygones be bygones. Moving on. What came next was a back and forth about gardening gloves. I kept putting them on her and she kept taking them off. (I secretly don’t blame her. I hate wearing them too.) I put them back on her again and explained about the manure compost that I had put down the night before, and how she can’t play in it.

It’s cow poop!

Uh huh.

The gloves came off. The gloves went back on. The gloves came off. Literally and figuratively.

Okay. That’s it. You’re out of here.

She walked off across the yard with slumped shoulders. I went after her to make sure that she was okay. Whereupon she told me that I had embarrassed her about the smushed turnip seedling.


Look kid. Here’s the thing. This is all pretty new to me too, and Mom gets pretty worked up trying to do everything perfectly. And yet, perfection continues to elude me. Go figure.

So we try again.

I dig a hole, and she slips in a tiny lettuce plant. We pat the dirt. Job well done.

We do it again. Then she wants to make the hole. Then I make the hole, and slip the plant in, and she pats.

Don’t pat the green part! Don’t touch the plant! Watch your knees! Do you see where your knees are?

Yes, Mom.

And then she loses interest, and starts digging in an empty bed where there are no seeds planted, and no manure compost. And I feel guilty.

Go for it, kid.

And the turnip seed, you ask? Did I get what I paid for?

Heck yeah.

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