What’s Growing at the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens: Gardening Together

What’s Growing at the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens: Gardening Together
By Melanie Priesnitz
Conservation Horticulturist

Children are sponges. They absorb what they see around them. We learn to speak from hearing language, we learn to walk by witnessing the upright motion of the humans around us. Children learn to garden if they see their parents or grandparents gardening. They learn not be afraid of the outdoors and the insects that live there if they see their parents lying comfortably on the grass or digging in the earth in their yard. If you love to garden and spend time outdoors very likely at some point in your children’s lives they will cherish these things as well. More often than not, when you ask an adult where they learned to garden it was from a relative or close family friend.

We know that exposure to the great outdoors makes us feel good. Scientists are currently studying microbes in the soil and they believe that contact with soil can make us feel happy. It is believed that the bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae, found in soil, can stimulate serotonin production, which makes us feel relaxed and happy.

If gardening is really not for you, another great way to get your fill of healthy dirt while also making family connections is to take your kids for a hike. I always find that honest, open conversations are way easier to have while walking in the woods. As a parent you can bring up topics that may be awkward or ill-received if you were sitting at the kitchen table staring at each other. Somehow the fresh air, the fact that you’re on the move, and perhaps the good microbes in the soil, magically open up conversations.

If you’re not currently an outdoor person or a gardener, it’s never too late to start. Gardening is a most forgiving pastime; plants are hardier than we give them credit for. They were, after all, on this planet long before us and they will find their way to reach towards the sun despite a multitude of new gardener blunders. Just remember to have fun with it, learn, and laugh with your kids while playing together in the dirt.

If you’re a newbie to hiking, Hike Nova Scotia holds ‘Learn to Hike’ workshops that can help get your started. You can also join one of the many local hiking groups or simply put one foot in front of the other, head to the Woodland Trails at Acadia or one of the other great Valley trails and get outside. You will feel better for it and your kids will be healthier, happier and more grounded individuals.

Generations are rapidly changing and we are losing touch with each other and the outdoors as we all spend more time on screens and have our own ‘age-appropriate,’ segregated sports and hobbies. Think about simply getting outside together this Father’s Day – don’t over plan it, keep it simple and just do it. Some of the best childhood memories can be made sitting on the back porch with your dad watching the rainbows form as you water the garden.

Photo: My mother playing in the dirt with her father on their back porch sometime in the 1950’s

Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens
Acadia University