With Spring right around the corner (we hope!), our little sprouts start thinking about bunniesparticularly one that delivers baskets of goodies! Still, there is one little bunny that steals everyone’s heartsalong with Mr. McGregor’s carrots: naughty little Peter Rabbit.
Planning a Peter Rabbit garden with kids is a great exercise in imagination. First, read the original Tales of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. Keep a notepad handy to jot down the different vegetables and plants Peter enjoys sampling in Mr. McGregor’s garden. Point out the pictures of various plants to your sprout and talk about how the plants growcarrots, for instance, only show their leafy tops while the veggie grows underground, while peas grow up…and up…and up on their vines.
Did you know that Peter Rabbit is eating a radish, not a carrot, in the famous Beatrix Potter illustration? The radish is believed to be the Long Scarlet Radish, a heritage variety.
Make a list of the plants mentioned in Peter Rabbit, then edit the list so that you’re growing what your family will actually eat. Some of the plants mentioned in the series of books include:
Next, find a location for your Peter Rabbit garden. The space doesn’t need to be extensivea sunny corner will do. Make sure that your space receives at least 6-8 hours of sunlight, though, as most of these veggies, herbs, and fruit need a healthy dose of sun to produce well. Let your child lead the way in selecting and designing the gardenas well as determining what to plant. The goal is to get our little sprouts excited about planting healthy foodand the more autonomy we allow, the more likely they are to eat the fruit of their labors! Guide…and explain why certain areas are better than others.
Nothing is more frustrating than an unsuccessful garden…so make sure that you properly prepare the site for Peter’s treats. Take a soil sample to your local extension office, tell them what you want to grow, and they’ll analyze your soil and tell you what amendments you’ll need to add. Double dig or till your amendments into the site, adding compost to enrich the soil. Be sure to make Peter’s garden a weed-free zone naturally…only use organic materials or fertilizers that are safe for edibles.
Talk with your young gardening buddy about which plants grow well together, adding flowers to attract beneficial insects to the garden, and how seeds or transplants should be sown. Get out some paper and let the child draw his or her ideas for how the garden should look. Think about hardscape as well as the plants. Do you want a small wall in the garden? Do you have a gate that can symbolize the one where Peter’s coat got stuck? Do you want to add a rabbit statue into the garden (which are available inexpensively at all big box stores)? Talk to the child about how much money you can spend on seeds and accessories. It doesn’t need to be expensive. If possible, take the child shopping for seeds with you, or let them select seeds from a catalog so they can see the wide varieties of the various vegetables that are available. They might even pick some that they’ll be interested in eating!
Many of Peter’s veggies are perfect for spring planting, such as carrots and lettuce, which don’t like hot weather. Get busy! As soon as the soil temperature reaches 40 degrees, you can start planting. Carrots like it a little warmer, so wait until the soil reaches 45 degrees. Take the child’s drawing into the garden with you, and use it as the basis for planting. If you need to make changes to the plan, tell the child why‐perhaps the plants are drawn too closely together, or the peas will provide too much shade for the strawberries. Without criticizing the child’s plans, help them learn how much room various plants need to grow.
Do you have a little blue jacket from a doll? Hang it on the gate. Do you plan a path to the garden? Make some rabbit tracks on the path. Let your creativity run wild, or use the book as a source of inspiration.
Planting is fun…but remember to tend the garden with your sprout! Water, weed, watch…and soon your garden will be overflowing with tasty treats…...unless Peter and his friends get there first!