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Mud, Water and Seeds

Now that spring is here, my kids and I will be entertaining ourselves in the garden.

Chalk it up to global warming, but I think T.S. Eliot needs to edit his poem to make March the “cruelest month,” not April.

March never disappoints in delivering the teasing admixture of warmth and frigidity, sunshine followed by nor’easters.

But luckily, March also faithfully delivers spring. For my family, nothing ignites our springtime enthusiasm like ripping open seed packets, pulling on garden gloves and watching worms wiggle about as we fluff our garden beds.

When we moved into our house four Marches ago, I could not wait to transform our little tract of land into a fruitful oasis.  

That first spring I built a compost heap for kitchen and garden scraps (not exactly the best pregnancy activity since my second son was born the morning after compost construction) and I enjoyed the precious few cherry tomatoes that came off of a half-dead tomato plant purchased in July.

I spent the following winter devouring practically every single gardening book in the library and meticulously plotting the vegetable garden. Before the snow had melted completely I had my little sprouts bundled up with toy shovels in hand.

My boys even endured a lesson in miter boxes, hardware stores and staple guns as they “helped” me construct a cold frame to extend my growing season.  

Ever since we started getting serious about gardening, my boys have been my faithful companions. As long as I keep a steady supply of shovels, mud and water, happiness abounds.

With a few growing seasons under my trowel, I learned some tricks about how to garden effectively with children. Now the challenge of three farmhands to direct and a seed-sized budget has helped me become more efficient in addition to productive.

One trick I learned is to feed my children yogurt for the sole purpose of using the containers for seed starters in the beginning of March. I collect about 30 containers, clean them and poke drainage holes in the bottom with a screwdriver. Once the plants are in the ground, the containers go in the recycle bin.

Another trick is to store a cache of bouncy balls, plastic shovels, bats, buckets and bubbles next to the garden equipment. At the first sign of boredom, I pull another toy out or simply add water. Water is so maddeningly basic, but it beats out expensive toys as the best form of outdoor kiddie entertainment.

Though I still cannot foist my affinity for tomatoes or green leafies on my kids, gardening has had the bonus of broadening their palates considerably. Fresh peas, green beans, melons, raspberries and cucumbers have all been greeted miraculously with smiles.   

Gardening with my children over the past 4 years has given us endless excuses to bask in the sunshine together, learn about the seasons, soak each other with the hose and have free license to get muddy. Nothing says Q.T. like digging in the dirt.

Three cheers for spring: the cruelest month has almost passed.

Pat McIntyre March 22, 2011 at 04:58 PM
I am glad to see that spring is coming to the Mineola Patch area. I hope that you get great crops from your "Mud, Water and Seeds" and your Junior Farmers. Spring is coming to Bel Air, too. I have added a picture of my spring planting and the re-awakening of plants from last year (chives and Stella D'Oro daylily). In the hope of increasing my "crops", I have consulted the great horticulturalist, Steve M., and have decided to buy an EarthBox.
Lee Oser March 22, 2011 at 08:43 PM
Like that reference to Eliot! LO in Worcester
Nan March 25, 2011 at 12:04 AM
Did anyone say Spring!!!!! You know how your seeds break through the soil, well that is how I am in the Spring, sprouting toward the sun. I live for Spring because my garden starts to transform into a beautiful painting. Putting on your working boots, rolling up your pant legs, picking up the shovel, and digging is what I call a breath of fresh air. The air might not be as warm as we want it however, everyday brings us closer to the SUN!!!!! I loved your article; I can so visualize what fun you must have spending that quality time getting down and dirty, planting, and making your garden an extension of you. God Bless you and your beautiful little family.
Steve March 25, 2011 at 12:32 AM
"Hope Springs Eternal" - For me it is Spring brings hope eternal. Spring reminds me that soon we can forget about subzero temperatures, snow, ice, and just plain old cold. I am tired of hoods, gloves, boots, and ear muffs. I can't wait to get into my garden. There is no better sight than seeing the first plants break through the soil. Last weekend, we just shoveled the composted soil onto our beds and now we can begin to compost anew. It is time to trim away the old and plant the new. It is extra special when you can share gardening with your children and have fun watching them enjoy such a rewarding adventure. I have the blessing of enjoying Spring for two more important activities - trout fishing and baseball. I also love history and I have just finished an article about Thomas Jefferson entitled "Founding Foodie". Gardening is a great way to enjoy Spring and share that joy with the ones you love. Thanks for reminding me of the joys of Spring.

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