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Cultivating the next generation of gardeners

Story image for Gardening from Kansas City Star (blog)

Did you grow up gardening with a parent or grandparent? If you said yes, that is not surprising: Research conducted by Ball Horticulture found that if, as a child, you gardened with a parent, you were more than twice as likely to garden as an adult.

I grew up gardening with family. That was in the days when a vegetable garden was necessary to ensure a winter food supply. The garden was planted with the purpose of having fresh corn on the cob not only in the summer but in the winter, too. Potatoes were dug and stored for the Christmas meal.

I have vivid images of dragging the hoe along the twine marker to plant carrots, dropping potato pieces in rows or riding behind on the tractor cultivating the sweet corn. That joy and sense of helping the family developed my love of gardening.

When I hear the term gardening I am swept away with emotion. I get that giddy feeling of the rich earth between my fingers, the sweet smell of a rose, or the pride in picking the first tomato. Say the word gardening to a generation or two behind the baby boomers and you will probably get a different reaction.

For some younger generations, gardening is not a pleasurable thought. It conjures up hard work, chores and drudgery. A non-gardener just doesn’t understand the internal benefits and stress relief.

So what can we do? Well remember the research: those who gardened with a parent are twice as likely to garden as those who did not. As a parent, and I extend this invitation to the grandparents, think about how you can engage the kids in gardening. What can you do this spring and summer to entice the kids to drop the Play Station controller, get off the couch and get outside?

It works from personal experience. My oldest son Caleb will eat broccoli and cauliflower because he helped plant and harvest. On the other hand, Noah has never met a vegetable he likes. I confess, I am sometimes a failure at what I preach. But just maybe it is not too late to help someone else.

On these long, cold winter nights, now is the time to formulate your game plan to turn the next generation into lifelong gardeners. What better way to pass the time until spring arrives than thinking about being in the garden?