For The Youngest Beginner
Color in Garden - Plate 11b

The age at which any individual child is ready to try a little garden of his own is something only a parent can determine. When you decide the time has come, let the introduction to gardening be as shrewdly devised as a movie preview. Present the pint size beginner with the most tantalizing bits of garden delights that you can dream up. Literally charm him with your samples.

The mixed seed assortments so often thought suitable for young children may have some points in their favor. They do provide an element of surprise and possibly a brief period of entertainment. But actually they do not make the easiest gardens to care for, and the eventual result is quite likely to be a discouraging, weedy mess. The strongest case against them, however, is the total lack of imagination that com­pletely ignores the differing natures of individual children.

Since the first venture for the very young must necessarily be a highly supervised one, the first garden may be almost anything you choose, as long as it is packed with personal appeal. For this time you will do much of the planning, planting and caring for it; with your apprentice present, of course, in the role of first assistant. If all you do is clearly explained and accounted for as you go along, and some of the responsibility turned over to him gradually as picking time approaches, you may have a pretty well informed and understanding helper by that time.

The miracle of the seed is undeniable. But it can be an exasperatingly slow miracle when you are very young. Why not then, in the very beginning, start off with a bang? Not with the seed, but with the fulfilled promise of the seed-the plant itself? A plant is not only a ready-made, on-the-spot joy, but it is considerably easier to take care of.

As a starter, why not buy him a basket of pansies or English daisies in bloom, or a few bedding plants such as verbenas, lobelia or ageratum? Right away he will absorb a little information about setting a plant in the ground, watering it, and shading it. This will give him something to pick and smell while he is undergoing the long, long wait for his seeds to show their magic contents. Or, give him transplants from your own seedbeds, divisions from your own perennials or a few early spring bulbs; anything so that he will have something showy and tangible right away.

And when you do plant the first seeds, why not dramatize the affair a little? Using some quick low crops like clover or grass seed, radishes or even onion sets, plant his name, initials or possibly a brief message.