The Garden Plot: Tending Gardens & Family Learning Opportunities

Summer Family Garden Chores

Whether you are a gardener of vegetables, flowers or both, the season for planting has for the most part ended. Now the real work begins.

Many years ago I read a Chinese quote I have always remembered:

the greatest fertilizer is the farmers footprint.

This memorable quote implies that tending to your plants was the most important thing you could do. If you spend time with your gardens you will see if they are overgrow with weeds, racked by insects, or in need of a drink. This attention improves a plants chance to survive and thrive.

Here are my 3 steps to successful maintenance of new plants:

  1. WATER: Give the plant water for the first season. This is the most important step by a long shot. See my post from last year, “Proper Watering!
  2. MULCH: Give the plant mulch for all its seasons. If you fail to do this the soil can dry out in hours rather then days in the hot weather.
  3. OBSERVE: Look at the plant at least one time per week, leaves, branches & trunk. This way if there is a problem you will see it before it becomes a catastrophe. If a couple of leaves are being eaten, no problem. But if in the next week half the tree has been defoliated then you have an issue that needs to be addressed. UMass Amherst has a useful site to help with landscape management that’s part of their Agriculture & Landscape Program.

Things like pruning, fertilizing, etc… are only important if your plant lives long enough to need things like this. When planting a garden or landscape, start small and build on your success. Or learn from your mistakes.  Integrating your kids into caring for your plants and landscape gives them unlimited opportunities to learn.  Children can easily help by watering plants, and giving them the task to observe the landscape and report their findings, empowers them with responsibility while encouraging the development in communication and observation skills.

Does your family garden together? Or maybe your children experiences a garden at school? Identify the embedded learning and share together!

[Photo credit: (cc) Will Merydith]


Jim McSweeney

Jim is a certified arborist, certified horticulturist, licensed pesticide applicator (needed for the application of organic pesticides in MA) & a professional landscape designer with over 15 years experience. He is also the owner of Hilltown Tree & Garden LLC. Jim is on the faculty at the New England Wildflower Society, teaching courses on a diverse range of topics. He lives and works in Zone 5 (Chesterfield, MA) with his family. Once a month here on Hilltown Families you will find timely gardening tips, from a pro in the field, that can be easily used by both avid and novice gardeners, specific to Western MA.

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