ASK THE HORT AGENT
Question How can a new parent garden with a young child?
Answer It really depends on the childís age. Gardening will be tricky while caring for a child less than 2 years old. It is amazing how a baby can be so wondrous and stressful at the same time. Parents that used gardening as a form of relaxation or meditation will still need that outlet after a new baby arrives. It can be very important for new parents to have mental distractions which help them unwind and avoid ďpostalĒ situations.
Obviously, a little baby canít work in the garden cause they donít make gloves small enough. One option is to simply take your baby with you when working in the garden. This can be accomplished by using a portable playpen, baby backpack, stroller or baby sling. The backpack (baby hangs on your back) or sling (baby hangs on your front) may hinder your movements. They work best for light activities which donít require much bending or kneeling like pinching flowers, watering transplants or training vines.
Strollers or playpens give you more physical freedom, but they have other considerations. When your baby is not attached to you, be mindful of the sun and temperature. Donít forget biting critters like mosquitoes, flies and the foraging fire ant. Unfortunately, fire ants can be encountered a good distance from a mound.
Baby monitors give you the ability to leave your baby in the house while you work outside. If you get two monitors, then you can put a sending and receiving station by your baby. This way you can listen and talk back just like being on speaker phone. Of course, babysitters also give you the freedom to go outside and release some stress.
Keep in mind that most equipment will be too loud for baby ears. Mowers, blowers, tillers and chainsaws make too much noise to use while carrying a baby. Obviously, pesticide application is also out of the question. Sometimes the obvious has to be stated.
When caring for babies, usually a parent will only have short times available for gardening activities. Young children thrive on routines. If possible, make gardening a part of your daily routine.
Consider modifying your garden. Focus on a smaller garden or a specific section of your existing garden. It may be easier to try container or patio gardening. If your baby is really fussy, then indoor plants may be a good temporary solution (for a year or so).
The love for nature is passed on to children through activities and lifestyles. Early experiences shape babiesí attitudes. Keep in mind that parents also need their connection to nature in order to relax and be good parents.
For more info on gardening with kids, visit http://www.gardening-with-kids.com/ If you do not have internet access, call us at 910-893-7533 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
My wife and I named our kid an Old Norse or Viking name. After 3 weeks, we realized a Russian name may have fit him better - like Vladimir Pootin.
Gary L. Pierce
Horticulture Extension Agent