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Make it easy for children to enjoy the garden

When you're planning a garden that will have frequent child visitors, don't plan around what the child might want. Rather, plan your landscape completely for the child within you.

This is the cartoon theory of landscaping for children. Remember, TV cartoons were geared first toward adults and secondarily to children, but the children all loved Wile E. Coyote. If you are fascinated with an idea for your landscape, then a child will be, too.

When you're planting vegetables for a child, you need to pick plants that are easy for you. It's not expected that children will water and maintain the vegetable garden as it's needed. So, make it easy.

Most patios or decks are sunny and located near the kitchen. Buy several large containers, 22 inches in diameter or larger, and plant tomatoes with marigolds, cucumbers with chives, rosemary with zucchini and thyme with fennel. Place the larger growing plants in tomato cages and let the lower plantings grow lushly at the rim.

You'll have easy access for maintaining the plants, harvesting your vegetables and watching the crops grow. Children can see the entire process and be as much a part of it as their age and personality warrants. At the same time, you aren't making the gardening endeavor a chore for them, because it's not a chore for you.

Landscaping for children goes far beyond vegetables. Get a toad house and buy cute little - non-living - toads to live there. They will need tools, and they especially like the 2-inch rakes and shovels with 3-inch-long wheelbarrows.

Toadstools are the best spot for fairies to have tea parties. Find a toadstool large enough for a miniature tea set, with teacups no larger than a half-inch high, to set atop the toadstool. Place the toadstool and tea set slightly under a shrub, so it's necessary to be on your knees and elbows to catch a glimpse of the fairies. Children know from birth that it is far more fun to watch for fairies when adults have to be crouched down in the dirt, too.

It's important to create garden memories for children, and you can play, too. Make yourself a potting table and compost area. Potting tables are the ideal spot to form mud pies, and it's always cool to put kitchen scraps - no dairy or meat, though - into the compost pile to attract worms.

When it comes to setting up a swing set, consider convenience and skip aesthetics. You want the kids to play on the swing set, not simply look at it. Sit it close to the house and remember that it will eventually disappear when childhood disappears.

Perhaps you've always wanted an old Italian villa. Please get one now. You won't need a mortgage, or a caretaker, if it's scaled properly. It should fit into a large trough container garden.

Children will know how silly you are when you say they must come visit your Italian villa. Never drop the facade - tell them how beautiful the villa is inside, and soon they will be in on the silliness and telling you stories about your Italian villa.

No, gardening for children isn't about reaching out to them at their age. It's more about reaching their age within you.

Stone Mountain resident Tara Dillard designs, installs and writes about gardens. Her most recent books include "Garden Paths and Stepping Stones" and "Perennials for Georgia." E-mail her at taradillard@agardenview.biz or visit www.agardenview.biz.