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Time to Play: My Dirty Little Secret

I am the ultimate girly girl: makeup, shopping, hair, nails, the whole nine yards. I live, breathe, and write about style for a living. You won’t find me in sweatpants or without makeup. Here’s my secret, though: I absolutely LOVE to dig in the dirt.

This love of all things dirt-covered started when I was a little girl. The scent of fresh dill always triggers one of my earliest memories; my grandpa and I used to collect it in order to jar homemade pickles. I can still remember riding on his tractor, surveying the massive garden, and picking vegetables to have for dinner that night while dressed in graphic print culottes with matching jelly shoes, naturally.

The garden my parents created in our backyard encompasses a great deal of my favorite memories as well. Every year, we would plant pumpkins in anticipation of our annual Halloween carving marathon. Did you know that if you lightly carve your name in a pumpkin while it is still growing, the letters will bubble over and raise up? I thought it was magic and still do.

Fast forward 28 years, and I am still playing in the garden . . . although I now have a tiny companion of my own. From the moment my son could hold his head up, I made sure to expose him to the smell of fresh mint, basil, and, of course, my favorite, dill. The following year, he did an excellent job of picking the ripe (and not so ripe) tomatoes. This year, he will assist me in the creation of simple dishes with ingredients from our garden with his insistent commands of “Mommy! Help! Cook!” filling our kitchen.

Gardening is a wonderful hobby for kids of all ages and can grow and expand as your family grows and expands. You don’t have to be a pro; kids don’t know the difference! Follow these tips in order to create an enjoyable and engaging experience:

• Grow something to eat! Yes, flowers are pretty but children are much more likely to eat vegetables if they have grown them.

• Size doesn’t matter. If you don’t have room for a full-blown garden, a window box or even a planter on the deck can be used successfully.

• See results quickly. Choose vegetables with quick germination and short growing seasons. Radishes, snow peas, and cherry tomatoes are excellent starters!

• Go organic. Digging in the dirt is fun, but digging in chemicals is dangerous.

• If you fail, try again! There are many late bloomers and fall foods, so if your spring/summer crop was a flop, give it another go. I will also sheepishly admit to purchasing new plants after I inexplicably killed their predecessors.

• Head to a farm with the kids. You can show them what a real, live farm looks like and inspire them to create their own mini version at home!