If you are planting outside, fence off your garden and be sure to prevent your pets from entering. Also, if you haven't already done so, you should consider testing your soil for lead. Most homes built before the 1970s used lead paint, which, in time, is absorbed by the soil. Today, even some newer homes may be at risk as soil is so often transported from location to location. If you live near a busy street, freeway, or industrial park be sure and have your soil checked—these are considered "at risk" areas. Also, soil can carry Tetnus and various other microbes—so vigilantly make sure your child doesn't eat garden dirt.
Try to learn as much as you can about the plants you grow. Talk to your local gardening supply store, check seed catalogs, and research online. Also, contact your local poison control center for a list of poisonous plants in your area. Although most herbs included here are perfectly safe for children, you should never let your child be alone in the garden. Make it understood that he can only eat plants under your supervision.
Enjoying the Harvest
Gardening doesn't stop at the end of the summer. Clip herbs and find a special spot in your home—in a basement, garage, or laundry room—and set up a drying area. After your harvest has dried, you can make herb packets for seasoning family meals. Or you and your child can enjoy making tea, soaps, candles, bath and closet sachets, potpourri, and dried flower arrangements with the bounty of your harvest. Be sure to set aside some flowers to collect seeds for next season. Your child will enjoy seeing the rewards of his own herb garden all year long. And don't forget to update the garden journal you started at the beginning of the season with pictures of your harvest as well as photos of your craft projects.
"No matter how we plot and plan and reason why and how children should practice gardening, the most important thing is to inspire children for their own personal enjoyment and growth," muses The Herb Society of America (HAS) (www.herbsociety.org). Herb gardening with your child fosters creativity and problem solving, and instills a deep appreciation for the environment—all valuable skills that will continue to grow and develop throughout his life. "We are cultivating more than gardens," writes the HAS. "We are cultivating a sensitivity and appreciation for the environment, an important step toward becoming responsible and joyful stewards of the earth."