Gardening with kids is an opportunity ripe with lessons. I love gardening and through the years have had lush flower gardens and plentiful vegetables and I’ve struggled against beetles, deer and other critters. When we lived in New Jersey we had literally a dozen deer in our yard at a time (and lots of incidences of Lyme disease). We had sweet spotted fawn following their mamas and we witnessed full out buck fights, horn-to-horn only yards from our back door.
This overpopulation of deer chewed on everything except for the 5 foot tall weeds in our woods. They ate every “deer-resistant” shrub we planted. The garden center guy would say, “Well, they’re not supposed to eat holly [or this or that],” and I’d say, “Well, our deer do.” There wasn’t a purchased plant that was safe (unwanted weeds were untouched, of course).
I’d read at the time that dirty diapers outside keep the deer away from flowers and bushes; I had two young kiddos still in diapers so I rolled them up and put them around the garden beds. Yes, I know, in writing this it sounds as ridiculous as it was.
One day, Ali stood there watching me curiously, maybe she was five at the time. Finally, her pondering formulated a statement, “Mom,” she delivered confidently, “No matter how much you water them, they’re not going to grow.” I fell over with laughter! And then collected the darn diapers … they never did work anyway. Neither did soap shavings or stinky spray repellants or … we tried it all (clearly we tried it all, since I stooped to planting poopy diapers). Ah, the wisdom of children.
I resigned myself during the seven years we lived in that wilderness to only having daffodils. I planted at least a hundred bulbs each fall and by the time we left we had a glorious display of daffodils along the lengthy stone wall bordering our driveway.
Then we got to Rhode Island and in our little corner of the neighborhood, I have never seen one single deer. On occasion I’ve seen the evidence, a nipped hydrangea or a favorite lily plucked right off its stem, but a bit of that gross-smelling spray has fended them off and they found a new route. BUT – instead, now, I have become a vision from Caddy Shack at war with a groundhog.
A few years ago, I finally created the perfect spot for a vegetable garden. It was neatly fenced in, but decoratively, not dug deep beneath the raised beds. That first year was pure joy! We had fresh Swiss chard, radishes, peppers and cucumbers that wouldn’t stop yielding. We had baskets of tomatoes, shirt-fulls of tomatoes, buckets full of tomatoes. We ate tomato salads, tomatoes with mozzarella, tomatoes in omelets, on sandwiches. We gave bowls full away and enjoyed them my favorite way to eat a fresh-picked garden tomato: sliced with a sprinkle of salt. Heaven.
Digging into the soil, dividing plants, finding new homes for them, and examining the new growth each day gives me a thrill. I find peace in my gardens. I feel love, joy, contentment and energy there.
Through the years, all of my kids have helped me in my gardens and have shared moments of excitement at new life pushing through the earth. It’s been Anna, though, who’s become my reliable gardening companion.
She’s at my side deadheading in the fall and weeding in the summer. She’s my partner in the spring filling the small peat pots with seed starter and carefully dropping a seed or two into each, pressing them gently with a pencil tip and awakening them into growth with water.
The year after our abundant first harvest, with great anticipation, we built a fourth raised bed, I couldn’t get enough. We planted neat rows of new plants filled with the potential of nutritious, crunchy, fresh foods. After planting them, I love to just look at them, admiring the green shoots, trying to see a change from the day before.
Then it happened.
I went to water our baby plants and make my daily (or multi-daily) check and there were nothing but nubbins! Every single plant had been chomped off, nibbled away, EATEN! I think I may have cried.
Back to trying everything. We sprayed the edges with veggie-safe God-awful-nasty-smelling spray. Here, Anna was my garden-trooper beyond the call of duty. She volunteered to be the sprayer of that horrible potion. I literally couldn’t be anywhere within breathing distance of the yard and she merrily and hopefully spritzed and sprayed. Then she had a bath. This stink would surely repel the culprit. Right?
Check back tomorrow for Gardening with Kids and a Groundhog Part 2.