Teaching Kids to Garden

My mother was my gardening teacher from the time I was five years old. She would build my enthusiasm before she took me out to the garden to help dig a hole or help with a little weeding. My mom knew that I was kid with a short attention span, so she would only push me as hard as she knew I would enjoy. She put me in charge—or at least, I thought I was in charge—of amending the soil. I remember she would have soil bags next to the vegetable plot every year. It was my job to help spread the soil and add a little fertilizer. I loved that part and I still do! Maybe that’s why I became Dr. Earth®!

I remember learning in elementary school about the pilgrims and how the Indians taught them to amend the soil with fish and other natural materials. This really stuck in my mind. My father and I would go fishing in the spring and summer just about every Sunday in Santa Monica, Malibu, and Paradise Cove, California. When I was seven, I came up with the clever idea to bring home all the fish by-products I could from the fishing boat my father approved.

With my mother’s guidance, I buried fish bones, fish heads, intestines, and basically all the waste products (fish scraps) that would be thrown back into the ocean, in an area of the garden approximately three feet by three feet. We waited a few weeks to let things decompose a little and then we planted some vegetables. I remember we planted a couple of tomato plants and a few cucumber plants. This was my first success in the garden. It really made a huge impact on me and my love for gardening. My fish fertilized plot outperformed all other plants in the garden, and my mother made sure she relayed that to every family member and friend that visited us. Wow! What great feelings of pride and joy that gave me! My mom told me that I was a great gardener.

I caught the gardening bug young, and I could not wait until our next project began, even if it was to help weed or cultivate the soil. I must admit though, my favorite part of gardening was harvesting summer vegetables, especially tomatoes and cucumbers, and eating them right off the vine before they ever made it inside the house.

My mom was my best teacher. Because of her guidance and support, my very first class elective in junior high school was botany. When most of my friends were taking wood shop, metal shop or printing shop, I chose botany. That was one of the most important decisions of my life. It gave me the fundamental knowledge about plants that I needed to involve myself in more community gardening projects.
By the time I was in high school, I was a seasoned gardener with many years of experience behind me. I ultimately went to college, studied plant science and went on to become founder and creator of Dr. Earth® Inc., a very successful organic fertilizer, soil, and organic insect spray company that now is nationally renowned. The experiences that my Mom gave me as a child in the garden have helped to shape my entire life. It is amazing what kids will become with a little guidance and enthusiasm. I personally believe the best thing you can ever grow is a gardener.

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