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Children deserve to have fun playing in the garden, too!

By Carole Massey
For The Salisbury Post
One of the best things about gardening is being able to play in the dirt. That means not having anyone fuss at you when you come in with mud clinging to your knees and fingers that look like Tootsie rolls with nails on them.
Children deserve to be able to have as much fun as us adults when it comes to playing in the garden.
Whether it is vegetables or flowers, there are plants that just lend themselves to kids.
If you have children you think would enjoy gardening, why not try to encourage them by selecting some child friendly “starter” seeds for a vegetable garden.
The larger the seed, the easier for little hands to grasp and poke in the ground: beans, cucumbers, pumpkins and squash are terrific.
Remember, a little goes a long way. For almost instant gratification, radish seeds, although small, will sprout in just a few days.
As a child, I followed my grandmother around the garden, imitating her every move. I appreciated the flowers I think more than the vegetables, as she would bring my attention to the fragrances of the sweet William lining the driveway and the wisteria climbing over the porch.
She always had something for me to pick and take into the house, proudly displayed in a cut glass vase or a Mason jar, depending on the quality of the blossom.
Your child might enjoy planting sunflower seeds. There are so many varieties, colors and sizes available. Many are dwarf in stature, perfect for edging smaller garden plots.
Butterflies, bees and birds will love them also!
A hardy flower that will do well is the zinnia. They are so colorful and cheerful; they will make for a happy place in the garden bed.
Another really interesting plant for kids due to its texture and name is the lamb’s ear. Soft and fuzzy, this greenish-gray mounding plant is a touchy-feely sensory plant, easy to grow and can survive the little ones’ stroking and tugging.
A companion for these might be the edible nasturtiums, bright and colorful. Both the leaves and flowers are a tasty, spicy, peppery flavor.
A favorite with most children is a pizza garden. Visualize your favorite pizza pie and plant accordingly. Small salad tomatoes are suitable, as well as smaller pepper varieties. Start early with a few onion sets and a bulb of garlic: add some basic herbs: basil and oregano. How better to teach where our food comes from?
There are so many opportunities to learn and grow in the garden. Developing a love of nature and a life skill from one’s parents and grandparents is something every child deserves. Green thumbs are nurtured. You have to start somewhere and the best place is in the garden.
Take advantage of all this community has to offer. The library has books on every level for beginners as well as practicing gardeners to assist in getting little ones into the garden. The Master Gardeners have dedicated raised beds at the West End Community garden for children. Rowan County 4-H offers a week of Horticulture for kids with Summer Fun programs.
For more information, call the Cooperative Extension Service at 704-216-8970.
Carole Massey is a Rowan County Master Gardener volunteer, class of 1998.

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