Meet Sarah beach, 2nd generation owner of Sunshine Garden Center.  Sarah has so much garden knowledge to share, so when I asked her to write about what her favorite thing to grow in the garden, and her answer was “kids”, I couldn’t wait to read what she had to say.  Whether you have children of your own, nieces or nephews, or just special kiddos in your life, you are going to enjoy this post by Sarah!

It all starts with kids in the garden!

Over the years I have been asked many times what my favorite crop to grow in the garden is. I have a hard time trying to pick just one. I love different vegetables and herbs or trying new flowers and mixing both in my beds and pots. When I was asked to write about it, I really had to think about it to pick just one.  Of all the things I plant and grow, my favorite thing to grow in the garden is kids.

Why kids

in the

garden?

I grew up in the garden. As kids, my siblings and I ran free here at the store. We had our fair share of responsibility growing up in the family business, but man do we have some great stories. Most of them take place in a garden of some kind. When we were kids we used our imagination to build things like forts and treehouses in the landscape. We made pretend meals from flowers, sticks, mud, and rocks.  We planted seeds and watched them grow and pulled a ton of weed. We learned by trial and error, got dirty, and worked really hard. To this day I still reflect on what we did then and try to bring pieces back for my daughter and niece and nephews.

My daughter, Olivia, has been growing up in gardens since she arrived. As an infant, she would sleep in her swing in the sales yard while I moved displays. As she got older she would explore the area where we were working. Her sense of wonder is magical and infectious. I always find myself just staring at her in awe. As she has explored, she discovered rocks and sticks, bugs and varmints. She has gotten dirty and she has learned to use caution. I don’t force her to do anything specific out there yet; I just let her have fun. We try to have teachable moments, but sometimes the memories are the teachable moment.

Getting kids in the garden early in life has so many benefits for their immune systems and their mental health. This goes for adults too! Starting healthier lifestyle habits at a young age has proven to carry through life as the person grows. It’s so much easier to start something from the beginning than to try and change your ways years later.

Why is it important to get kids active in the garden?

Being outside and playing in the dirt increases your intake of Vitamin D and boosts your immune system. A common misconception is that getting dirty will expose you to germs and lower your immune system; when in reality it actually helps build up your immune system. There are bacteria in the soil. One of them, Mycobacterium Vaccae, has been linked to alleviating symptoms of psoriasis, allergies, and asthma. The bacteria also help to build up resistance to other things like the cold and flu. Gardening without sunscreen (in short bursts, like 10 minutes) midday also gives you enough Vitamin D to help ward off heart disease. If you are going to be outside for prolonged periods, do use sunscreen! Protect yourself from a sunburn and the harmful rays. If you are gardening through the heat of the summer, make sure everyone stays hydrated!

Gardening is also a great source of exercise! The bending and reaching, lifting plants and moving pots around gets you a whole body workout.  It gets you active and outdoors. Both are things that kids easily miss out on with the new age of technology. The activity boosts your energy levels and lets out endorphins associated with mood boosters and stress relievers. Just letting them play improves their motor skills too. Being outside and allowing the kids to get dirty and experiment with their crops also gives them a sense of accomplishment and pride in their work. The boost in self-confidence helps them fend off insecurities and anxiety. 

Having a garden or even just a few plants that they take care of gives kids a sense of responsibility. Working in the garden teaches kids work ethic too. Getting a good crop doesn’t just happen. They have to work the soil, weed it, feed and water it. They get excited about taking care of something and watching it grow. This process also keeps them invested in the plants. Also, if they grow vegetables, they are more likely to try eating a new one if they watched it grow versus one they found in the store. Why? Because they can get excited about it!

What do you do with them in the garden?

This depends on their age, how much real help you need, and your level of patience. Oliva has been a “helper” in my garden her whole life. Sometimes its been easier than others but we really try to enjoy it and make memories (the early days were my memories). When she was an infant she played the cheerleader role. She would watch as I planted and weeded, then crawl around in the sprinkler. As she got older she would help me pick our veggies and put them in the baskets. Sometimes she would taste test them for me. She absolutely loves to plant the seeds and then watch them grow. It makes my heart full when we see the first signs of growth and she squeals with excitement and pride.

My philosophy has always been if its safe for her to do it then let her try. Sometimes we both struggle (me with control and her with actually being able to do it) but we don’t know until we try what will work for us and what won’t. Sometimes we surprise ourselves and sometimes we chalk it up to–we’ll try again when you’re older. We ALWAYS try to make it fun though.

How do I get my kids started in the garden?

If you are working with kids or creating a garden for them, then you want to plant easy to grow varieties like marigolds, beans, carrots, and sunflowers. Head to your local independent garden center and they can help you get started. As always make sure that its something fun for both you and your kids. Gardening should be fun! Ask questions, laugh, and get your hands dirty. Enjoy the moments with your kids, they grow like weeds.

Sara Beach

Sunshine Garden Center