A Kid-Friendly Garden…I’m not there yet.

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It’s worth repeating:  My backyard garden is very much in its infancy.  I have small in-ground plants planted everywhere, and if you’ve read one of my previous posts, you know I’ve marked some of these plants with orange survey flags so they’re easily identifiable in the event I need someone to water them while I’m laid up after surgery.

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Area above where many small plants are planted.  Also known as the “ugly area”.

I also corralled all of my potted plants against a portion of my privacy fence and then insulated them with a pile of fallen leaves to keep them semi-warm in case of a freeze.

Because of my temporarily limited physical abilities, I made the decision to hire a woman to help clean my house.  When we interviewed each other a few weeks ago, she told me she home-schooled her four children and asked if it would be okay to bring one child along with her on occasion.  She said he’d stay occupied with his schoolwork.  I told her this was fine.

Fast forward, and out of three cleanings, she’s brought all four children to two cleaning events.

Yes, they bring homework with them and yes, they work on their schooling, but they are children…wiggly, giggly, run-around-the-house and slam-the-door kids. This is normal. Mine were that way too at their ages (6 to 15 y/o).

The kids like my backyard.  I showed them my water trough with fish the last time they came.

In this second visit, when they we’re done with their schoolwork, they asked their mother if they could go out to play in the backyard.  She asked me for permission, and I laid down some parameters….Orange flags mark baby plants.  Don’t step on the baby plants.  Don’t walk in the garden beds.  Don’t play in one corner of the yard where I have plants that have gone to sleep for the winter.  In giving these rules, I was also aware that I don’t want to spoil the kids’ fun with too many “don’ts.”

The children asked if they might pick up pecans, and I told them “yes” and supplied a bucket for this activity.  They are enthusiastic like big squirrels scrambling here and yonder.  The little boy screams “pecan” every time he finds one, and the pecans are everywhere.

I’m happy they are picking up the pecans I can no longer pick up myself because of my hip.  I’m also happy about this because the adults I’ve asked to help themselves to my pecans aren’t interested, even though one of my trees produces the big thin-shelled nuts that are easy to crack and taste delicious.  Apparently, adults prefer to buy their pecans pre-cracked rather than to pick their own even though mine are free.

And then there is a turning point.  Am I an old lady curmudgeon?  A.K.A. The grumpy old lady who tells children, “Get off the grass!”

I planted my backyard with wildlife in mind.  Aren’t children wildlife?  If I create a garden for nature, aren’t children a part of nature?  Don’t I want to nurture their love of nature?  Well, yes, I do.  However, I don’t want to watch these children every second and certainly their mother isn’t watching them because she’s cleaning.

I go out to see the older girl has pulled away the leaves I piled against my pots to look for pecans.  I had no idea she would do this.  I let her know not to move any more leaves.

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Above:  Uninspiring photo of potted plants (bottle brush & lemon grass in foreground) surrounded by remaining leaves.

I see the little boy throwing nuts from the deck at his sister and some are landing in my water trough.  I hold my tongue.  I’ll fish them out later.

The little boy also picks up things from the deck that are breakable, and I ask him politely to leave them alone, and he listens and puts them down.  He really is a good kid.

And I stop to ask myself, is this garden kid-friendly?  Not so much, at least not right now.  Then again, I’d not expected four children to explore my garden.

I’m not sure the cleaning-with-children arrangement is working for me.  To be sure, these are beautiful intelligent children, but I don’t want to worry about kids breaking things or kids running through the house or their mother being interrupted to tell them “Stop that.”  I don’t want them to step on baby plants, not that it would be intentional.

Children belong in gardens and in nature.–I support this idea but right now, I’m not set up to host them.  I feel bad about this on some level.

I want to help the mother who has four children to support, but it’s rough going, and I’m not prepared.

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