Planting the Seed

June 13, 2011
Written by Amanda Ryder
kidsgarden1June 13, 2011 - In the June 2011 issue of Canadian Garden Centre & Nursery, our cover story "Planting the Seed" looked at what four garden centres are doing to nurture and grow the next generation of gardeners. From seminars and kid’s programs to offering children’s gardening product lines, these businesses were indeed successful at instilling an appreciation for gardening in the younger set.

We also asked these garden centres what advice they had for other retailers who are looking to cater to young future greenthumbs. Here’s what they had to say:

“I think you really have to love working with children as a starter.  If you’re very focused on retail then it might not be a good fit for you.  If you have the commitment and the time and the space to do it, I would say investigate the curriculum and make sure that the programs you offer are relevant. Make sure that they’re fun, that they’re really hands on for kisd because they learn by doing.”

-Tam Andersen, owner of Prairie Gardens & Adventure Farms in Bon Accord, Alta.

“I would say the biggest thing is just to go for it and start something. Even if it’s quarterly it’s really easy to get started. I think people get overwhelmed with the idea of how to do it and what exactly to do to start. I would say just to decide on a couple topics that are easy and that use supplies that you have at your garden centre so you’re not putting out extra costs . . . You could do vegetable gardening, planting seeds in tehs pring is really easy and fun and the kids love that. Planting bulbs in the fall, just easy projects just to get started. .If you have someone who is willing and who loves kids and who’se willing to help start that, I’d would just say get something going. It gets easier as you go along, you every year we’re looking for new ideas and we’er trying to change it up every year, maybe have a couple classes that are similar and we really try to find new and intersteing things and I think that keeps kids coming back year after year.”

-Amy Bigej, Al’s Garden Center in Oregon

“Keep it simple and safe, start small and be prepared. If you have any teachers on staff, get them involved because they know the havoc that 25 kids can cause if you’re not prepared for them! In our case, we really need one person in charge. It takes just a few hours a week to organize. Last year, my daughter who was taking a year off after finishing high school before going to university ran the club. She would research and set up the activity, make a sample and photograph it for the newsletter, organize the supplies, write the Kid’s Club newsletter and email it out, email the volunteers and train them on the activity.  (I miss her now!)

Set aside a specific area as a kid’s zone and have something there for kids all the time – Lego, colouring – so they get used to coming there. Keep your activities simple, inexpensive and unique. For Father’s Day, one year we taught the kids to braid with coloured raffia and they attached it to a Father’s Day card that they made – now it was a book mark for Dad! In the two years that we’ve ran our Kid’s Club, we have 1,500 families who subscribe to our kid’s newsletter! Some weekends, we will have 300 children attend over the two days. Costs can really add up if you don’t watch it.

Volunteers are great but they need training and you really need someone who can relate well to kids and their parents. Safety is a big issue. We do not offer to watch kids without their parents, so parents stay, watch, take pictures and even help. You wouldn’t think a Mother’s Day flower pick could be dangerous – until you put it in the hands of a rambunctious four year old. Always watch and monitor the kids.”

-Pauline Intven-Casier, Canadale Nurseries, St. Thomas, Ont.

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