Did you ever have plans to do something with your kids, and then realize it was a bad idea?
I’ve wanted to join the Community Garden for years. The only thing that’s stopped me is the thought of gardening with two little ones. I can barely manage my overgrown perennial garden, let alone drive to another plot in town for weeding, watering and harvesting.
To compensate, we’ve had a farm share for the last three summers, where our family has enjoyed salad greens, tomatoes, herbs and flowers. The share worked well for us up until this year. Since we’re down to one salary, a 10 x 10 town plot for $25 seemed like the smarter option. With Ted’s encouragement, I decided to give the Community Garden a try.
The garden would require a team effort. And when the season started, Ted was by my side, setting up stakes, spreading manure and laying down tarps to keep the soil warm. Lauren and Will, who arrived with kid-sized gardening gloves, trowels, rakes and even a mini wheel barrow, didn’t show much interest.
The entire month of May came and went without revisiting our plot, but I felt okay with that. The garden coordinator said tomatoes shouldn’t be in the ground until Memorial Day, when the threat of frost is over. Plus we were taking a family vacation at the end of the month. I didn’t want to plant and come back to a wilted garden.
A week after our return, I decided it was time to plant—our seedlings were bursting out of their trays. Ted was out with a friend, so I took the kids with me. I tried my best to make the field trip sound exciting. Now our seeds can grow! You can dig in the dirt and get muddy! We can visit the Children’s Garden when we’re done!
When the three of us arrived, most gardens were full of thriving plants. Our orphaned plot was surrounded by weeds. The tarps that Ted and I so carefully laid out were gaping with more green, gangly ugliness. I told the kids we’d have to do some weeding first. “But I want to plant!” Lauren said. “I want to water!” Will whined. And then came the mosquitoes.
My duo sat on half the tarp itching their bug bites and looking forlorn, while I pulled weeds. “This is boring!” they shouted in unison. After an hour of of watching me weed and haul several loads to the compost heap, the two announced they were starving. “Just a few more minutes,” I promised. “Anyone want to help Mommy plant peas?” They shook their heads “no” and proceeded to paw at the ground. I was covered in sweat. My kids were covered in dirt. No one was having any fun.
When Ted arrived home, he found me lying on the floor of the bathroom, while the kids splashed in the tub. He knew better than to say anything, other than “looks like you could use a nap.” Smart man.
I decided what I needed was a change in outlook. For our next trip, I promised the kids donut holes and lemonade. So what if it was only an hour before lunch? We would arrive at the Community Garden with full bellies, charged with sugar. Lauren helped plant lettuce, tomatoes, basil and cilantro. Will watered with pride. The two even carried hay over to the plot, and we made friends with some of our garden neighbors in the process.
Wow. What a difference between visits. This was the gardening experience I’d dreamed about—spending time outdoors, planting with my kids and meeting other gardeners. Then I realized: like tending the garden, new experiences with little ones take work. Some days we have to pull weeds, and others, we can enjoy what we’ve accomplished.