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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Growing Things

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.

Sad little cilantro.

I have a dirty little secret to share.  It's embarrassing and I hate to share it, but in the interest of pushing myself to grow and learn, I'm going to share it with you all right here, on the internets:

I am a terrible gardener.

Okay, there.  I said it.  I have yet to live up to the "garden" part of my blog's name.  And I don't just mean that I'm inexperienced (which I am), or that I have no idea what I'm doing (I don't).  I actually kill plants.  I'm a plant killer.  Remember that kitchen garden I started a while back with the kids?  Yeah, most of those seedlings are dead, through a combination of neglect (I was intensely sick, okay?) and overwatering (because I wanted to show them I loved them!).

But you know what?  Some of them are surviving.  Spindly and kind of yellow, but still growing and turning towards the window.  And we've supplemented with some already-grown plants from the plant nursery, which are much easier to maintain, and that's allowed us to cobble together a fairly decent kitchen herb garden. But I'll admit, it's a little sad-looking.

Pitiful little dill.
So I soldier on with the garden idea, and we'll even be expanding it in week to plant an outdoor vegetable garden.  Why?  Why do I keep doing this when I'm having such limited success and I feel so frustrated sometimes?

Two words: Owen and Jonah.  As cliched as it sounds, I do it for the kids.  Because I want them to get out in the yard and get dirty.  I want them to have memories of feeling so proud of the wonky vegetables that we grew ourselves.  I want them to know that I am not perfect and I am still learning, just like them.  And most of all, I want them to know where their food comes from.  I want them to understand and be grateful for the work that goes into producing the food that they put into their bodies, and I want them to learn that food comes from the earth and not from a factory.

So no matter if we get inundated with tomatoes in July (that happened one year, it really did!), or if the rutabagas don't make it, we're going to garden.  And we're going to really enjoy being outdoors in the sun and air and dirt together.  Even two years ago when the boys were so much smaller, we had a great time digging together, and finding earthworms and bugs and, yes, getting sunburned.  Was it all 100% pure fun? Absolutely not.  We had moments where I got upset that they were trampling our newling pea shoots, or throwing dirt at each other, or any number of other things.  And there were days when they weren't that into gardening and I felt tempted to just make them do it anyway.

But you know what?  That's all okay.  What we have left of that garden is a lot of good memories and a little more enthusiasm for this year's experience.  And in the end, it's not about the vegetables, although they're an awesome bonus.  It's just about growing together.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit 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. Your motivation is infectious; I really admire you for keeping this up even though you find it hard. Keep trying different crops to see what flourishes for you. potatoes are pretty simple to grow, as are radishes and courgettes (zuchini) :) Good luck!

  2. I loved this post! I had to laugh because my kids have seen me kill more plants than grow them. But, the good news is that we have learned to keep trying and the rewards are there. Thanks for your honesty and I think your last sentence says it all :).

  3. I love this! I am a reforming terrible gardener, too. This year, I've been so busy that I keep forgetting to water my poor seedlings, so, yes, they're a little sad looking, too.

    But you have a great attitude toward it all, and it's the same one I try to emulate: that it's about the joy, and the experimentation, and not everything has to go right. I love that you mention that your kids will be able to see your failures — and that that's a good thing! I want to embrace that as well, to show my kids I'm learning just as they are, and it's nothing to be ashamed of.

  4. I'm so glad you joined this carnival - your post gave me several good chuckles ;) But we sound a lot alike - I also keep soldiering on with our garden, despite the lackluster results. Someday, someday . . .

  5. I love this post! You are so real! I have a confession to make myself: The tomatoes all my friends raved about last year were 90% maintained by my Dad. He just brought them over once they were ripe! lol
    Your kiddos are so lucky to have a Mama teaching them the importance of maintaining the earth and growing your own food. And learning right along with them is the best way to do it! Way to go Mama!

  6. Good for you for trying! I've been joking about my "black thumb" for years, because I kill houseplants all the time. Luckily the outside ones are harder to kill ... the rain mostly takes care of them. ;)

  7. I love that you do it for the kids...I'm a plant killer too, but my little guy has a green thumb already at nearly 4. Hoping he'll pick up some tips through other family members...lol...

    great Carnival post!

  8. This is so awesome Liz - as a fellow houseplant killer, I feel very encouraged :) I am sincerely hoping my garden does well this summer, but if it doesn't, I will continue to soldier on! - And for the very same reasons... :)

  9. Liz, I love your post. I grew up on a farm, but am having a hard time adjusting to ME soil. I took a free class from Continuing Education from a local high school. VERY worthwhile. I label my garden an experiment. That way when things don't work, it was a lesson as to what not to do. I will be giving EJ his own small section this year. That and a large dirt walkway for digging makes peace in my garden.

  10. Love it. I want my son to see me undertaking a process and being open to learning. Maybe by the time his little sister is his age, we'll have all figured it out. Or maybe I'll need to have a third for that... ;-)