Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Kids in the garden

One of my best mates is the kitchen garden coordinator at the school our kids go to. She is a super inspiring gal.

Her job is funded for 6 hours, but she puts in many, many more. She liases with teachers and the P&F, drives for miles with a huge trailer, gorgeous toddler in tow, to find compost, manure, pizza oven bricks and more, then lugs what she's found around the school, organises other parents to help, sorts out how the program she wants to run fits with class teachers and the curriculum, and does millions of other things. And the garden is looking great! Following the tenures of two other passionate gardening mothers, our school grounds are getting soft edges. Kindy kids are leaving class with bunches of parsley  sticking out of their bags, there are old boots hanging on strings outside one class with daffodils growing out of them, a scarecrow with soil and seeds in her pockets that my girls check for signs of life as they pass. Children have ownership of the grounds as they watch things that they have planted grow.

My friend has done wonders, and somehow fits it all into an already rich and full life.

She astounds me.

Today she came and rescued some plants from my reject pile and while we sorted plants and her beautiful little one played in the propagating sand and snoozed in the potting bark, we chatted about plants that kids enjoy in the garden.

My friend's pic of her little one relaxing in my potting bark.

My girls have access to a huge variety of plants, and watching how they interact with them is exciting.

The sweet tooth is always nicking carrots, wiping the soil on her jeans, then eating them, still dirty, on the spot. She steals strawberries from potted plants I've protected from birds and nurtured for my market stall minutes before I pack them. Cheeky. She eats purple broccoli from the school garden every day and loves to leave offerings for the fairies, picking mint, pineapple sage and other fragrant leaves and tiny flowers. She arranges them like a dinner party on the dining suite from her dolls house, hoping the fairies will come in the night and leave her tiny letters.

The other one is interesting to watch. She searches through the garden for food like a little finch scavenging seed. She makes recipes in the kinder veggie patch, rolling parsley inside cavalo nero (her favourite kale) leaves to make little snacks. She seeks out intense flavours, unripe blueberries, over-ripe alpine strawberries, anise hyssop flowers and chickweed.

Working hard sowing borage.

They both help me sow seed, write labels, weed, tidy up, barrow compost, harvest and cook. They care for, and play with, chooks and pigs. They know where food comes from, and they talk about it with their friends. Last night while we were picking dinner the littlest one learnt the differences in smell and taste of Italian parsley and Chinese celery leaf. She told me which of our three kinds of broccoli she preferred for dinner, and chopped a mountain of mushrooms from a friend's mushroom compost stash to cook with her harvest for dinner. And she was so proud.

This is real food security. Teaching kids to grow and cook for themselves, and sharing with them the true value of food, and the rich experiences that can be had when you spend time in the garden.

Literacy, numeracy, botany, chemistry, entomology, nutrition, economics (I'm happy to pay for slug collection or weed pulling) sustainability, self discipline and probably dozens of other things are learnt in an incidental and practical way. This same interaction with food gardening doesn't need a plot as big as ours. It can happen with a box of potatoes grown on a patio, herbs on a windowsill or, if you're lucky like our kids, and many others in Tasmania, at school.

Growing, gathering and marketing her own King Edward spuds.
Teddy saving seeds.
School harvest!
Rhubarb, angelica and tomatoes for market.
Feathers for kinder craft.
Helping gather for market.
Feeding the pigs and chickens with a playmate.

Potted strawberries on the Christmas lunch table.
Gardening can be anything, but most of all it's fun!
Here the little one is modeling her hero,
George the veggie man from Margate.

We'll be at Farm Gate this Sunday the 7th of October, an extra off schedule market, with eggs, pumpkin, seed spuds, a cornuicopia of edible potted plants, fresh greens and herbs. See you there!

PS....another inspiring friend's thoughts on learning and sharing in the garden can be found here: 


  1. This is how I will like our future kids to grow up too!

  2. Paulette, I have tears in my eyes.... The memories of my children growing up as yours are. There is no greater joy!

  3. This was a beautiful article. I hope the school kitchen garden program keeps going: it teaches children so much that they may otherwise never learn (and really ought to know given the uncertain future we face).

    Your girls are gorgeous and are receiving a fantastic education in your garden (I had a little patch in Dad's garden as soon as I was old enough to dig. I remember growing alyssium, sweet peas and strawberries when I was wee).

  4. paulette i SO enjoyed reading this post and seeing these pictures. what a wonderful environment your children are growing in, and knowledge they are receiving from you and their community. it is inspirational. altho we don't have a big space and i am a real beginner gardener, i want my children to have the same connection with growing food. we are starting small and starting together...its very exciting and wonderful for me as a mum to be learning with them too. i often look at you on instagram in awe over the garden delights in your photostream

  5. Lovely post, thanks for sharing :)