~ A 6th Generation Flower Farm ~

8664 360th Street – St. Joseph, MN

Podcast Episode 16

Gardening and Flower Farming with Kids

Welcome back to the Sunny Mary Meadow podcast/blog. I have a very, very, very special guest today. Can you introduce yourself?

Vidalia: My name is Vidalia Fiedler.

Liz: Yes, it is my five-year-old daughter, Vidalia Fiedler. She listens to every single episode, and she usually sees us recording. She has been asking to be part of it, so I said, “Sure, what are we going to talk about?” So, we’re going to talk about flowers for a little bit, and then Vidalia is gonna go to bed. Then I will finish it with a few more tips for gardening with kids. I would say the very first tip is to let them participate if they want to. So that’s exactly what we’re doing tonight.

Vidalia: So, what do the flowers start out as?

Liz: Oh, you want to ask me some questions right away?

Vidalia: Yeah.

Liz: Okay. Flowers start out as seeds.

Vidalia: And then what are they?

Liz: Well, what do you do after you have to put them in the ground?

Vidalia: You water them?

Liz: Yep. you water them. And then what happens next?

Vidalia: You give them care and love?

Liz: Yep, yep. And then they turn into a plant.

Vidalia: And then they start to grow petals.

Liz: Yep. Start to grow petals.

Vidalia: Oh wait, they start growing the middle and then the petals.

Liz: Yes, that’s true. They start in the middle, and then the petals come next. Yep, you’re right. So Vidalia, what are some of the flowers we grow here at Sunny Mary Meadow?

Vidalia: So … cosmos, forget-me-nots, sunflowers, and zinnias … and snapdragons … and ….

Liz: What’s the one that kind of sounds like your name, but it’s not your name?

Vidalia: Dahlia?

Liz: Dahlias, yeah. I think that there is an important distinction between gardening and having a business and trying to do that with kids. Imagine taking your kid to work every day, and then having them help you. So what are some of the things you got to help with last year in the garden? She was four-and-a-half last year. When’s your birthday?

Vidalia: December 7

Liz: Yeah, so in the summertime, that’s around her half-birthday, so she was four-and-a-half last summer.

Vidalia: I got to pick up sticks. And I got to ride in the skid steer with Brent.

Liz: What about picking flowers and stuff like that? What did you do?

Vidalia: I wiggled them.

Liz:  Which flower? Which flowers do we do that for?

Vidalia: The zinnias.

Liz: Yeah, the zinnias. You have to wiggle them and make sure they’re ready to pick them. What were some other jobs that I let you do? Some flowers, when we start them from seed, are a little bit trickier than others. Which ones do you get to help start from seed?

Vidalia: The sunflowers and zinnias.

Liz: Yeah, how come the sunflowers and zinnias?

Vidalia: Because they have kind of little seeds. Liz: Yeah, actually the seeds are bigger. And how do you plant those?

Vidalia: So, you punch a hole, and then you drop it in, and you cover it up, and you water it.

Liz: Yep, and that’s it. Whereas snapdragons and some of those other flowers have very, very tiny seeds. So, Vidalia doesn’t usually help with those yet. Right?

Vidalia: No, I can do them.

Liz: Oh, okay. She can do them.

Vidalia: Yeah, but I can’t do the bulbs.

Liz: Yeah, bulbs are a little tricky sometimes.

Vidalia: Cause they’re so big. I can’t really dig. All I can do is punch.

Liz: Oh, okay. What about when we pick the flowers, and we put them into water, right? What else do we do with them?

Vidalia: So first, they start out in the pot. And then we put them into our permanent spots?

Liz: Yeah, if we start them in seed trays, it’s like they’re in a pot, and then we put them in their permanent spot. That’s true. Let’s talk about tulips for a second. How do we pick tulips?

Vidalia: We pull them up … even with the bulb.

Liz: Yeah, you pull them up, including the bulb. And then when do you take the bulb off?

Vidalia: When you’re ready to use them.

Liz: Yep. So Vidalia got to help me last summer with doing that quite a bit.

Vidalia: Yeah. Can I this summer?

Liz: Yeah, you can help with the tulip bulbs this summer. And then where do we put them when we have to store them until we’re ready to use them?

Vidalia: In the storing fridge. It’s this really big, big fridge. Liz: Yeah. In the butcher shop, right? And it’s pretty cold in there, right?

Vidalia: Yeah, and we have a “mommeter” for how cold it is.

Liz: Yeah, we have a thermostat. So you were four-and-a-half last summer with the garden, and Davie was just one. We were talking about how Davie’s going to be, one-and-a-half this summer. She won’t turn two until the end of the summer. So, what do you think are some age-appropriate jobs for someone like Davie? Or how old do you think she has to be to do some things?

Vidalia: So, like cutting with the scissors, I think she has to be four or five.

Liz: Okay, that’s a good idea.

Vidalia: Not like three or two.

Liz: Yeah, no, probably not. Probably not three or two to give them some scissors. Where all of our flowers are, what do we have right next to them?

Vidalia: The playset.

Liz: Yeah, the playset is really close to the garden.

Vidalia: So if it’s kids’ classes, then after we do the flower part, while the grownups finish the rest, the kids can go play on the playset.

Liz: Yeah. What are kids’ classes here at Sunny Mary Meadow?

Vidalia: So, they’re classes when kids come.

Liz: Oh, yeah, and who teaches those?

Vidalia: Me.

Liz: Yeah. Yeah.

Vidalia: And you too.

Liz: Yeah, I help with it a little bit.

Vidalia: Uh huh.

Liz: What other things do you think we should talk about with gardening with kids? Do you like to use pretend shovels or real shovels?

VIdalia: Real shovels.

Liz: Yeah, she does not like to use anything pretend. What about gardening gloves? If I have some on, are you okay if you don’t have any on?

Vidalia: No.

Liz: Yeah, if I have them on, I have to make sure she’s got some. What about watering the garden?

Vidalia: So you need to take a watering can or a hose. But with the baby chicks and mama hens, with the hose, it’s pretty hard.

Liz: So we have some succulents that are chicks and hens, and if you water them with the hose, it’s pretty tricky because you don’t want to disrupt them, right?

Vidalia: Mm hmm.

Liz: What are your favorite colors of the flowers that we grow?

Vidalia: Um, all of them.

Liz: All of them. Okay, I like the pink ones.

Vidalia: Pink zinnias?

Liz: Yeah, pink zinnias are probably my favorite. What other things should we talk about? Do you have questions for me?

Vidalia: Why do you put fabric on top?

Liz: Why do I put fabric on the plants? So that we don’t get so many weeds. That’s the main reason.

Vidalia: Do they only grow in the holes?

Liz: The flowers? Yeah. So I put the flowers in the holes. And then the flowers come up in the holes in the landscape fabric, and nothing else grows everywhere else. It also helps make sure they’re exactly nine inches apart, too. So, that’s helpful.

Vidalia: But we can’t, but we can’t cut the fabric. We gotta burn it.

Liz: Yeah. How come we cut it and not burn it? Do you know? The reason we burn it and not cut it is because if we cut it, it’ll unravel, and it’ll rip easily and tear. But if we burn it, then it’s got really good edges.

Vidalia: Oh.

Liz: Alright. Well, Vidalia, do you have any other thoughts or questions? What is our website if people want to get a hold of us?

Vidalia: sunnymarymeadow.com

Liz: Yep. And then, didn’t you write a song for Sunny Mary Meadow?

Vidalia: (singing) Flowers, flowers, we love flowers, Sunny Mary Meadow, they smell so good.

Liz: Yeah, she wrote that. Our local grocery store, Coborn’s has a song, and Vidalia was going to change the words to Sunny Mary Meadow instead of Coborn’s. And then we thought, nah. Anything else you want to add?

Vidalia: I wonder why the flowers die in the winter.

Liz: That’s a good question. They go dormant because they just have to take a little rest until the spring, and then they give off new seeds, and then they have new greening and new leaves again. What do you want to be when you grow up?

Vidalia: A nurse practitioner and a flower gardener.

Liz: Oh, okay. You used to say doctor, now she says nurse practitioner. All right. Well, thank you so much for joining us, Vidalia Fiedler.

Vidalia: You’re welcome.

Alright, Vidalia just went upstairs to watch about a half hour of TV upstairs when she’s done and going to bed.

When it comes to gardening with kids, just really, really adjust your expectations. The fact is what you can get done alone in one hour will take three hours with kids. It really depends on their age, it really depends on their attention span, it’s hot, there’s bugs, and it’s just not always fun.

I’m gonna probably get some hate on this, but I kind of genuinely don’t care. I see it happening all the time, where people are stay-at-home moms, and flower farming is something that they can do with the kids at home. But genuinely, most of the time, the friends that I have that are doing this, the kids are inside watching TV. I’m like, “Okay, is that really working? Or how does that work?” For me, to the point where I have scaled my business, I actually send my kids to daycare. Last summer, I worked three days a week as a nurse practitioner, and then I had two days a week to work on everything with the flower business. I had a couple of part-time employees helping with it, and we were also in the middle of building a house and living in a camper. So things like laundry took four hours. And things like doing dishes in a tote, because we didn’t have running water, took all day long. So, my kids were at daycare so that I could do that stuff. It felt impossible, but we made it work.

So this summer, I actually have a nanny coming from 7:00 am until noon or 1:00 pm. My employee, Lindsay, has a daughter who turned one in April. So we have a five-year-old, an almost two-year-old, and a fresh one-year-old. So, we are going to have a nanny till about noon, and our goal is just to be done at noon. Just keep in mind that you wouldn’t normally take your kid to work. So, when they’re out there with you, just keep in mind that they will probably not enjoy all aspects of it. They’ll want to do the parts that they want to do, which includes picking flowers, and then everyone gets frustrated because they’re touching the wrong ones. So, as I said, adjust expectations. That’s not to say that it can’t be done, you absolutely can get up before they do, and you can maximize your time (30 minutes of solid work time while they’re playing with toys or they’re on the swing set or they’re following you around and interested), and you just have to get. stuff. done. during that time period. I think a lot of people make bouquets at night after their kids are in bed.

I’m guessing we all feel the same way when it comes to things like trying to send emails back and forth or making social media posts. We don’t want to be on our phones constantly when we’re around our kids. We don’t want to teach them that, so we try just to be mindful of how often we’re on our phones. But if you run your business off of Facebook, and someone sends you a message saying, “Hey, I’d like to buy a bouquet, then you kind of have to be attached to your phone.” I just use my Apple Watch, and then I know when someone sends me a DM, although I have changed my business this year. I am not taking any orders through any DMs whatsoever this year. It all has to go through my website. If someone sends me a message, I’ll say, “Hey, here’s the link to the website.” It has to go through there because I can’t keep up anymore. I can’t do it that way.

I would highly suggest, like Vidalia and I said, “Make sure you give them the right tools.” My daughter Davie, who’s one-and-a-half, has all these toys, and yet she wants to play with the remote, or my phone, or my watch. Not the fake one, not the plastic one. She wants the real one. All kids are the same way. Vidalia wants actual shovels; she doesn’t want a plastic little scoop for the sandbox. I have a Roo Apron, and it’s my favorite thing. So, Vidalia wants one of those aprons for gardening. And she’s like, “Well, I can’t do that because I don’t have an apron.” Another tip that I would have is to keep two to-do lists on your phone every day and divide up all of the tasks between what can be done with the kids and what you can be way more productive doing when they’re napping so that you can take advantage of that. If you know that when you’re picking flowers or whatever, they just play on the grass, and you can bring toys outside and they sit in the shade and they entertain each other, great. But if you’re like, “No, I know that if I make bouquets in front of them, they’re going to want to help,” then do that when they’re napping or being watched by someone else. And you want them to want to help, you want to let them make bouquets sometimes, you just need to adjust your expectations.

Vidalia absolutely insists on cutting the flowers for a bouquet herself. Well, guess what, half the stems get broken, and half the stems get bent. And they get ruined, and I can’t sell those. So again, I always know that I just let her make the first one, let her cut them way too short, and let her just do it. And that one’s hers or that one’s ours for the table. I just let her do it because it’s no fun, and she gets frustrated if I say, “Nope, nope, you can’t touch these. You can’t touch these.” So, you’re just adjusting those expectations. You want them to get engaged, you want them to want to do it, you want them to have fun, and you can give them actual helpful jobs. Vidalia is actually pretty good at seeding the seed trades if they’re big enough seeds. I know she said, “Well, I can do the snapdragons.” No she can’t, those are tiny, but okay, whatever. I plan on putting her in charge of making labels, stamping things, tying strings on vases, etc. And people know that they’re a little crooked or this one’s upside down because Vidalia did it. If it’s something that’s going to actually hurt your product if you’re selling it, such as cutting the flowers the wrong way, or if they’re really delicate stems like cosmos or something (that very tip stem is really delicate – I usually don’t let her do those because they end up snapping in half) you just don’t let them do those things. Otherwise, you get upset because this happened. I mean, just imagine if you had a job off the farm, what that would possibly look like. Of course, you wouldn’t bring them to work. I think it’s important for kids to see you doing work. I think it’s meaningful. But I also just keep in mind to adjust those expectations. They can’t work as long as we do.

(Laughing) Vidalia just yelled from upstairs, “Mom, when can I go to a Disney Resort Hotel?”

She has been wanting to come on the podcast, and every time I’m like, “No, you gotta go to bed.” I usually have her in bed by the time Abbey gets here – we start recording the podcast at about 7:30 pm, and that’s about the time; ideally, she goes to bed. She gets to help set up, and she’s been having fun. She is helpful and plugs everything in the right way, and she is very interested in how it all works. However, tonight when I said, “Hey, do you want to come on the podcast?” She was like, “Yes!” And I can guarantee that we will re-listen to the episode with her over and over and over, and that’s good. I want her to be excited. Again, I think “more is caught than taught.”

She hears me talking about the flowers, hears me teaching people, and she learns from it. I saw her looking at her watch, which had a little camera on it. It’s not a Smartwatch by any means. It’s just like a video watch – it was like 50 bucks, there’s nothing to download it to anything, but it’s got a camera on it, and these little games, and stuff like that. So, she was looking at it, and she was saying, “And that is how I taught you how to grow flowers. And our website is sunnymarymeadow.com.” For a second, I was a little embarrassed, like, “Oh my God, what am I teaching my kid?” But at the same time, in this world that we are in, you need to be able to speak and present. So I thought … “Okay, you know what, I’m not embarrassed that she sees me talking to my phone and telling stories on there. She knows I’m talking to the customer. She understands how it works.” 

I also think that it is equally important that we spend a lot of time outside. I give her a lot of freedom. I don’t know where I heard this from, so I’m not trying to plagiarize it, I just can’t remember where I heard it, but I talk about it all the time … the importance of letting kids do dangerous things carefully. Let them do it themselves, let them try it, they might fail, they might fall. As long as they’re not going to get hurt too bad, and a little scratch isn’t gonna hurt them, it’s important to let them do that. It’s important to remove that safety net, to have that free play, to have that imagination. We spend a lot of time outside in the summertime, and like I said, I’m really hoping to be done working every single day by noon. Davie will take a nap in the afternoon, and Vidalia and I will just have the summer to hang out because I do not want another summer like I had when they were constantly at daycare. The goal for me with this business is to have a lot more time to spend with them. But I also have to be realistic that I need some uninterrupted work hours because it’s not fair to her, it’s not fair to them, it’s not fair to me to try to do it all at once and try to multitask all of it.

I think the goal of time with your kids should be quality over quantity and making sure that they’re getting that uninterrupted attention. If you’re always trying to get stuff done for work, it’s not really fair to them, and it’s not quality time together. This is a big subject, and I probably did not cover everything that I wanted to, and I hope that anyone that is a stay-at-home mom, homeschooling your kids, or spending time with your kids together, I absolutely agree that there’s so much opportunity for learning and I’m not saying that it can’t be done with them at all times. I think the exact opposite. I just think, you know, dreaming that you’re gonna have the best of all worlds, and run a business with your kids, and do this and do that, and it’s gonna be great for them all the time … it’s not. Just adjust your expectations a little bit and realize that they’re learning, and you’re learning, and just let them bloom and grow.

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