With May almost behind us, and (hopefully) the snow done for a few months, it is time to check out the destruction that winter caused on the garden.
Rock borders shifting, soil runoff pooling, and the weeds, poking up, ready to explode your garden into green.
The first spring weeding never bothers me that much, usually because the ground is still soft from a winter of wet, and the weeds are the weak rooted annuals that are easy to pull up. This year, I approached it with even more glee, since I had the kids helping me!
Teaching my kids to weed was easy! We took the time and focused on one weed a day, an easy to identify one, that was lightly rooted and easy to pull up. Having the kids work on digging out deeply rooted weeds like a dandelion would just be a lesson in frustrated, so we focused our efforts on the bittercress.
This sweet little weed is prolific, and easy to identify by it’s tall stalks and small white flowers. With one light tug, lower down it’s stem, it pulls right out of the ground.
All 3 kids (ages 4-10) are keen to pull this baby out of the ground for me, especially since with every bucket full they collect, they get to feed the chickens (or rabbits) with it – a bonus of living rural.
The double win here, is not only are the kids keeping busy cleaning our garden, but we are able to safely dispose of these weeds, without worry of them seeding our compost pile. The chickens devour them safely, and the bunnies will pick at them (although LOVE the dandelion flowers).
They are also safe to eat, and a fully edible weed! Pop them in your salad and they are similar to a crisp watercress!
Our goal is to not just raise our kids to be gardeners/farmers, but also to teach them good work ethics. Helping in the garden is fun, and productive and being able to make it fun by adding a few chickens to the mix makes it even easier to get the kids working outside.
Now, we just have to teach them how to manage the extreme amounts of “compost” these critters create!
Not everyone is lucky enough to have living weed composters (aka chickens and rabbits) so here are a few more tips to get the kids off the couch and helping in the garden:
1. Give them a weed bucket.
It sounds like a simple thing, but having a little bucket close by to fill to the top with your own “pickings” gives them a goal and makes the weed dumping easy to manage. We start small with the 4 year old, and then work our way up as the kids are bigger.
2. Talk to them.
Garden chatter is a great way to keep everyone’s minds entertained and catch up with your kids. While you may enjoy the peace and quiet (and sometimes they do to) this is an excellent time to ask about school and, since they are multitasking, conversation is natural and easy.
3. Get them tools.
The first thing our kids do on a gardening day is run to the shed to grab the “good” shovel. We have a huge assortment of gardening tools, and everyone has their favourites. Make sure you have enough to share and some that are small and light enough for little hands
4. Stop what you are doing.
Sometimes you just need to stop YOUR project and give them a hand. Digging holes deep enough for plants can be tough, and sometimes a bit of clarification on a funny look weed will give them the guidance they need. Stay close by, and work with them to get the project done.
They may not garden perfectly, and little feet sometimes forget where they are stepping. Just remember, everything in the garden will come back next year, and as my mother-in-law would always say, “plants have two choices, to live, or to die” Let your kids help, let them make choices on the placement, and as for weeding. . . do a sweep after they are done to make sure they didn’t miss too many!
And of course, offering them a penny a weed is a GREAT way to get your garden ready for spring (and it gets rid of those pesky pennies!). . . it works like a charm!