It all started innocently enough.
At first, I purchased just enough to grace my front porch. Later, I justified buying more because I wanted to give them to my sons. Then, I craved still more for the back yard. Finally, late last summer, there was this sale on terra cotta ...
I admit it. I am addicted to flower pots. I own a dizzying array for someone who lives in a townhouse. I barely even have a yard.
Yet, I love flowers. I'm hoping to instill this love of dirt, worms and wonder in my three children. My oldest two helped me to plant a garden this year.
My first-born brought an artistic eye to his work. He chose a cobalt blue ceramic pot and combined fuchsia and yellow flowers with a contrasting leafy grey-green filler. None of my other planters are so visually striking.
My younger son is down-to-earth. Literally. I suspect that he decided to use the red plastic planter because it contained the most soil. He chose two six packs of tiny pink and red blooms. I think he wanted to maximize his time in the dirt.
I haven't been brave enough to attempt gardening with my toddler daughter yet. But we have discussed bees and worms. And she likes to point at the plants and yell, "Flowers!" at the top of her lungs. I hope that she always reacts to gardening with such enthusiasm.
But how do you instill a lasting love of gardening in children?
Nathaniel Alpert, lawn and garden sales associate at the Germantown Home Depot, says that if adults show an interest in gardening, kids will too. Alpert speaks from personal experience. He remembers hunting for worms while gardening with his mother as a child.
“I was always out in the back getting dirty and everything,” said Alpert.
Rather than growing plants from seeds, Alpert recommends having children plant fruit and vegetable seedings. That way, they can see the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor at the end of the growing season.
"It's nice to be able to produce and eat your own stuff," said Alpert.
Julie Super, a Master Gardener and a naturalist for the City of Rockville, suggests planting seeds that germinate quickly to help keep young gardeners interested.
"Some tried-and-true favorites include cosmos and zinnias," said Super. "They produce colorful flowers and are fun to make into bouquets. Vegetables such as corn, green beans and squash all poke through the soil in less than a week."
"Don’t be afraid if you don’t know how to grow a plant," said Lill. "Have a sense of wonder and discovery of doing it with your child for the first time.”
Simple activities can prove meaningful. "Digging in the soil is magical for kids," Lill said. "A lot of children today don’t have that unstructured time outside.” Both Lill and Alpert suggested providing kids with child-sized gardening tools.
Lill recommends giving children individual areas in which to garden, places where they can select which plants to grow. Each child should be given a watering can so that they can take responsibility for watering their patch.
“Even the youngest kids can water,” said Lill.
Some people think you have to have a large space in order to have a garden, but that's not the case. Any patio or balcony is a good place to grow a garden, according to Lill.
“You don’t need to have a yard. You can do gardening in small containers,” said Lill.
But keep an eye on those flower pots. They have a way of multiplying.
Gardening with kids is all about discovery, wonder and spending time together outside.