Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Peter's Garden

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Peter's Garden

Article excerpt

My eight-year-old son, Peter, has always spent most of the day with me when I am home. Since much of my free time is spent in the garden, Peter developed a great deal of curiosity about what I was doing. His younger brother, Benjamin, spent time exploring the garden while I worked. However, Peter, who is blind, hesitated to follow, knowing that he would be likely to stumble over the ground and smash some plants.

I initially agreed that the garden should be off-limits and encouraged Peter to "stay out of the way." Then, I reconsidered--since he was so curious, maybe this would be the ideal time to let him learn something about botany and how plants grow. I started thinking about ways to include my son in one of my favorite pastimes.

Planning Peter's Garden

I set aside a 12-square-foot area of the garden for Peter's use and decided on crops that would be easy for him to plant, weed, harvest and even sell. Large or bushy plants with large seeds seemed like a good choice. That first year, we put in Indian corn, miniature pumpkins and gourds.

I knew that the planting and maintenance of his garden plot would be much more clear and meaningful if peter was involved in the planning process. Peter raised a number of questions during our planning sessions. Many of his questions were very visual. He wondered how big his pumpkins would grow, how much space each plant would need and whether the plants would grow upright or sprawl. We discussed the garden plan in detail--the location of each row, the reasons for choosing these locations and the amount of space between each plant.

Planting

Peter and I worked together to till the garden so it would be smooth enough for him to keep his balance in the area. Then, we strung kite string to mark each row.

Peter planted his pumpkins and gourds in mounds, or hills, directly beneath the string. He counted out six seeds to a hill--later to be thinned out to three plants per mound--and covered them with soil. Then, he used a four-foot section of sapling to measure out the right amount of space between each just-planted hill and the next.

Peter planted corn the same way, by using the string for a guide and a small stick for a measure. He planted kernels of seed corn under the string, about six inches apart.

Garden Maintenance

A clawed garden tool and good mulch--such as leaf mulch or clean straw--will be the only tools a child will need for most small gardens. Simply have the child remove the mulch in one small area at a time, and rough up the ground a little to keep it from becoming too compacted by rain. Be sure to cover all the areas with mulch again.

After our garden had been put in, I tilled the ground between the rows a few times. Soon, both plants and weeds were sprouting. When the plants were large enough, I showed Peter what pumpkin and gourd plants felt like at the stem--fuzzy and somewhat prickly. Now he could easily differentiate them from the weeds. We waited until the corn plants were fairly thick at the base; then, Peter also was able to distinguish them from the weeds he pulled out from around their thick stalks.

Crops for Kids

Not every variety of plant is a good choice for a child with a visual impairment or other disability, but there are plenty of good ones from which to choose. …

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