From the beginning, we have tried to encourage Small Boy to be involved in the garden. We want him to enjoy his vegetables and eat healthily, to be aware of where food comes from and how it’s grown. If he has a good time working in the garden with his mommy and daddy (as we did when we were small), perhaps it will create a lifelong interest in gardening.
Our garden is north-facing, which is not ideal, but there’s a lot of space and we have two walls against which Husband has trained a number of fruit trees – a russet apple, an opal plum, a fig, a couple of sweet cherries. We have a thornless blackberry, a raspberry patch, a mound of strawberry plants, a whitecurrant bush, several gooseberry bushes, and a couple of blueberry bushes growing all by themselves in an old header tank (because they need special acidic soil).
Small Boy (who is now 28 months old) was quick to understand where berries come from, and he now wanders into the garden and grazes freely. Most of the berries in the garden are edible, with only a couple (pyracantha and rowan) that we wouldn’t want him to eat – and even those aren’t poisonous. After a few thousand repetitions, he now understands that some berries are for people to eat, some berries are for birds to eat, and some berries make us ill. He knows he should only eat berries that Mommy and Daddy tell him are OK.
We each have projects with Small Boy. Husband has been sowing radishes with him – when the radishes are ready, they are picked, washed and munched. I like to leave the greenery on so I can watch Small Boy wandering around the garden, munching on a carrot a la Bugs Bunny.
I recruited Small Boy to help me plant potatoes this spring. I cleared the ground and dug the holes, he dropped the spuds in and helped cover them over and stamp the earth down. As the plants grew, I pointed them out and said ‘These are the potatoes you planted!’ He helped me earth them up. (I pulled the flowers off the plants before they could turn into berries, because potato berries are poisonous.)
A week ago, Small Boy watched as I cut down the potato plants, and he helped me gather them up and throw them on the compost heap. This afternoon, as I washed dishes I told him that we were going to dig up potatoes when I was finished. He wandered away, and a little while came back with soil on his hands and face.
‘Where have you been?’ I asked sternly. He grinned: ‘Digging!’
He’d found one of the potato buckets (we planted several varieties, and as I had only a few tiny Maori Chief seed potatoes, I planted them in buckets), tipped it over and was industriously digging with a little trowel. I helped him move the earth onto a tray and sift through it for potatoes. We found only enough to fill a small bowl, but he was very excited each time we found a small, jewel-like blue potato.
We took them inside, saved the four largest for planting, and washed and boiled the remainder. I sliced one for a pizza topping (I promised him we could make pizzas again for tea), and he can have the rest for a snack when he wakes up from his nap. Can’t wait to watch him eat the potatoes he grew!