10 May 2011

Seeing the Garden Through the Weeds

Welcome to the May Carnival of Natural Parenting: Growing in the Outdoors

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they encourage their children to connect with nature and dig in the dirt. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


I hate weeding. Let me rephrase that.

I hate weeding.

No different? Yeah, it isn’t any different to me either.
As a child, my mother and I did a lot of gardening. She worked tremendously hard to make our yard a beautiful sanctuary where I spent long summer days fantasizing about fairies and far-off places. I loved watching the flowers change throughout the season from pansies and daffodils to irises and lilies. I also loved being able to eat the fresh vegetables I helped grow and understanding what real, fresh food should taste like. Though I took a break from gardening in my upper teen years, I returned to the tried and true methods I grew up with when I started a family.

I was lucky enough to marry a man who already owned a home so when he found out I wanted to garden, he had an area in the backyard tilled for me. I was newly pregnant during our first summer together but already envisioning the following year and how I would take the baby out to the garden with me every day while I weeded and picked vegetables so he or she could experience the outdoors and learn about our food. Unfortunately, reality is not exactly the utopia I imagined.

One of Heidi's first trips outside.
Children love being outdoors. But children also love moving around a.k.a the opposite of sitting still while mom is gardening. Sure, I still got some stuff done, but with a newly mobile infant, it was difficult to truly concentrate on what I was doing while making sure my daughter wasn’t eating rocks (good for parakeets, bad for children). I tried putting her on a blanket with lots of toys to distract her, but she did not find that nearly as amusing as eating grass. I also attempted to confine her to a swing or stroller, but particularly in the swing, she managed to climb half out of it and then proceed to enlist my help to further her exit.

With my second child, it wasn’t any better. Initially, she was not at all fond of grass and actually found it revolting to the point of tears. My older daughter was also at this time exploring the boundaries, or lack thereof, of our yard and habitually wandered towards the front of the house where there was no fence. Needless to say, I did not get a lot done while they were with me.

Piper in a brand new outfit.
 Still, I had a garden and I got a lot from it. I was able to give my children food I had grown myself and sometimes give it to them straight off the plant. I haven’t given up on teaching them responsibility via horticulture because as long as they are continuously exposed to it, it will become a part of their lives. Right now, they still don’t want to sit still and watch me carefully extract weeds, spread soil or delicately plant seeds, but I know that some day they will. Leading by example is my current MO so I will press on and continue to show love, compassion and dedication towards everything I grow.

They will be weeding before they know it.

"A man is ethical only when life is sacred to him, that of plants and animals as well as that of his fellow man, and when he devotes himself helpfully to all life that is in need of help." - Albert Schweitzer

***Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama

Visit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Get Out!Momma Jorje gives reasons she doesn't think she gets outside enough and asks for your suggestions on making time for the outdoors.
  • How Does Your Garden Grow?The ArtsyMama shares her love of nature photography.
  • We Go Outside — Amy at Peace 4 Parents describes her family's simple, experiential approach to encouraging appreciation of nature.
  • My Not-So-Green Thumb — Wolfmother confesses to her lack of gardening skills but expresses hope in learning alongside her son at Fabulous Mama Chronicles.
  • Enjoying Outdoors — Isil at Smiling like Sunshine describes how her children enjoy the nature.
  • Five Ideas to Encourage the Reluctant Junior Gardener — For the rare little ones who don't like to get their hands dirty, Dionna at Code Name: Mama offers tips for encouraging an early love of dirt (despite the mess).
  • Connecting to NatureMamapoekie shares how growing your own vegetable patch connects your child to nature and urges them to not take anything for granted.
  • The Farmer's Market Classroom — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction shares how the Farmer's Market has become her son's classroom.
  • Seeds — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment's hubby Ken shares his perspective on why gardening with their kiddos is so important . . . and enjoyable!
  • Toddlers in the Garden — Laura at A Pug in the Kitchen shares her excitement as she continues to introduce her toddler and new baby to the joys of fresh veggies, straight from the garden.
  • Nature's Weave — MJ at Wander Wonder Discover explains how nature weaves its way into our lives naturally, magnetically, experientially, and spiritually.
  • Becoming Green — Kristina at Hey Red celebrates and nurtures her daughter's blossoming love of the outdoors.
  • Little Gardener — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis looks forward to introducing her baby girl to gardening and exploring home grown foods for the first time.
  • Cultivating Abundance — You can never be poor if you have a garden! Lucy at Dreaming Aloud reflects on what she cultivates in her garden . . . and finds it's a lot more than seeds!
  • Growing in the Outdoors: Plants and People — Luschka at Diary of a First Child reflects on how she is growing while teaching her daughter to appreciate nature, the origins of food, and the many benefits of eating home-grown.
  • How Not to Grow — Anna at Wild Parenting discusses why growing vegetables fills her with fear.
  • Growing in the Outdoors — Lily at Witch Mom Blog talks about how connecting to the natural world is a matter of theology for her family and the ways that they do it.
  • A Garden Made of Straw — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares tips on making a straw bale garden.
  • The Tradition of Gardening — Carrie at Love Notes Mama reflects on the gifts that come with the tradition of gardening.
  • Gardening Smells Like Home — Bethy at Bounce Me to the Moon hopes that her son will associate home grown food and lovely flowers with home.
  • The New Normal — Patti at Jazzy Mama writes about how she hopes that growing vegetables in a big city will become totally normal for her children's generation.
  • Outside, With You — Amy at Anktangle writes a letter to her son, a snapshot of a moment in the garden together.
  • Farmer Boy — Abbie at Farmer's Daughter shares how her son Joshua helps to grow and raise their family's food.
  • Growing Kids in the Garden — Lisa at Granola Catholic shares easy ways to get your kids involved in the garden.
  • Growing Food Without a Garden — Don't have a garden? "You can still grow food!" says Mrs Green of Little Green Blog. Whatever the size of your plot, she shows you how.
  • Growing Things — Liz at Garden Variety Mama shares her reasons for gardening with her kids, even though she has no idea what she's doing.
  • MomentsUK Mummy Blogger explains how the great outdoors provides a backdrop for her family to reconnect.
  • Condo Kid Turns Composter and Plastic Police — Jessica from Cloth Diapering Mama has discovered that her young son is a true earth lover despite living in a condo with no land to call their own.
  • Gardening with Baby — Sheila at A Gift Universe shows us how her garden and her son are growing.
  • Why to Choose Your Local Farmer's MarketNaturally Nena shares why she believes it's important to teach our children the value of local farmers.
  • Unfolding into Nature — At Crunchy-Chewy Mama, Jessica Claire shares her desire to cultivate a reverence for nature through gardening, buying local food, and just looking out the window.
  • Urban Gardening With Kids — Lauren at Hobo Mama shares her strategies for city gardening with little helpers — without a yard but with a whole lot of enthusiasm.
  • Mama Doesn't Garden — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life is glad her husband is there to instill the joys of gardening in their children, while all she has to do is sit back and eat homegrown tomato sandwiches.
  • Why We Make this Organic Garden Grow — Brenna at Almost All The Truth shares her reasons for gardening with her three small children.
  • 5 Ways to Help Your Baby Develop a Love of the Natural World — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama believes it's never too early to foster a love of the natural world in your little one.
  • April Showers Bring May PRODUCE — Erika at NaMammaSte discusses her plans for raising a little gardener.
  • Growing Outside — Seonaid at The Practical Dilettante discovers how to get her kids outside after weeks of spring rain.
  • Eating Healthier — Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey talks about how she learns to eat healthier and encourages her children to do the same.
  • The Beauty of Earth and Heavens — Inspired by Charlotte Mason, Erica at ChildOrganics discovers nature in her own front yard.
  • Seeing the Garden Through the Weeds — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro talks about the challenges of gardening with two small children.
  • Creating a Living Playhouse: Our Bean Teepee! — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings shares how her family creates a living playhouse "bean teepee" and includes tips of how to involve kids in gardening projects.
  • Grooming a Tree-Hugger: Introducing the Outdoors — Ana at Pandamoly shares some of her planned strategies for making this spring and summer memorable and productive for her pre-toddler in the Outdoors.
  • Sowing Seeds of Life and Love — Suzannah at ShoutLaughLove celebrates the simple joys of baby chicks, community gardening, and a semi-charmed country life.
  • Experiencing Nature and Growing Plants Outdoors Without a Garden — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares some of her favorite ways her family discovered to fully experience nature wherever they lived.
  • Garden Day — Melissa at The New Mommy Files is thankful to be part of community of families, some of whom can even garden!
  • Teaching Garden Ettiquette to the Locusts — Tashmica from Mother Flippin' (guest posting at Natural Parents Network) allows her children to ravage her garden every year in the hopes of teaching them a greater lesson about how to treat the world.
  • Why I Play with Worms. — Megan of Megadoula, Megamom and Megatired shares why growing a garden and raising her children go hand in hand.


  1. Loved your descriptions of gardening with very little ones! Fortunately, it won't be long before they can really be a help - and develop a true appreciation of gardening (even if there still are some weeds)! Great job of helping your children develop a love of gardening! Deb @ LivingMontessoriNow.com

  2. I'm glad you're so real about what gardening with little kids is like. I had this dream that Mikko would just magically be helpful and/or amuse himself out of my way. Sometimes (often) neither happens, and I have to make time to garden alone just to get things done in peace. That said, a lot of these carnival articles are inspiring me to keep persevering — that it will likely get a lot better as the kids get older.

  3. I don't care much for weeding either! While I don't have a garden, I pictured relaxing days outside in the beauty of nature with my baby much like your gardening days. Perhaps I would sip an iced tea or read a book while she played. I have had one or two of those days, and scores of afternoons spent chasing my daughter down to get a pebble out of her mouth before she choked. It's funny how loudly our idealized images can clash with reality at times!

  4. I've been there! My oldest is 9 and I've only been successful in gardening since last year. I realized two things, 1)I had to move to the front yard because my garden needed sun (DUH!) 2) I needed to start small, real small.
    So I'm sticking with square foot gardening and so far so good. No weeding involved.
    Now my flower beds..that's a different story!

  5. our last two summers, with me pregnant or tending a baby--and my husband working 80 hr weeks at summer camp, we were lucky to water. barely weeded at all--just hoped for the best. and we still grew tons of delicious produce. you just do what you can do in the season you're in:)

  6. I can't wait until Aaryan (and eventually his brother or sister) shows some sort of interest in gardening. I feel the same way....the more dedication and love I show towards growing things, the more important it will become to my children as well. :-)

  7. I hate weeding too. Honestly, I almost let Tom use chemicals last year, if only it would cut down my weeding time. We didn't, so I lost most of my garden to the weeds. Such is the life of the lazy gardener, I suppose ;)

  8. LOL Amanda...this makes me laugh somewhat ruefully as I know I will probably be in a similar situation this summer!

    My Bean is currently not thrilled with grass, but she is a crazy mover and I'm just waiting to see how long it takes her to get over her fears and abandon the blanket. At least I have a fence I guess...

    Note to self...clear all pebbles out of back yard...

  9. Thanks to everyone :) I am encouraged that some day they will "enjoy" helping me in the garden :)

    Hey Dionna, did you know you can kill weeds if you spray them repeatedly with vinegar?? :)

  10. I think your MO is perfect actually :). Leading by example, letting them see you work your passions, wonderful! And I love that picture of your daughter in her new outfit!!

  11. I hear you when you say you can't get anything done in the garden. But then I appreciate you as you manage it, feed themstraight from the garden. Great!

  12. Totally true -- it is so hard to garden with babies and young toddlers! It has gotten progressively easier for me as my kids have gotten older -- so far this spring I am getting some really great sessions in (if I only can get myself to dig in and start weeding, ha!). My girls are approaching 3 and 5 -- able to entertain themselves/each other and be safe even without my vigilance. It will come! In the meantime, give yourself a lot of leeway and fairly low expectations for what you intend to accomplish -- that has worked for me!

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