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#MomLife: Gardening with Baby

I've always believed that a little dirt never hurt, but what can Baby eat?
A.M. Cullen: "This Spring, I realized very quickly that all my careful bed planning didn't account for one totting chubby-fisted problem whose newfound joy in life is yanking and tasting any plant she can reach."

This article is for our green-thumbed mamas! Tuck this one into your gardening supplies for next year's planning!

Living the #PlantMomLife

Moving to Fort St. John three years ago sparked my green thumb. And now I'm one of those crazy plant ladies that has brings the extra folding table from the basement each February just to hold all her seedlings. For me, May Long weekend can't arrive fast enough. Though a relative (albeit eager) novice, with each planting year I've been researching water drainage, studying my yard's shade patterns, and paired up companion plants faster than Tinder. By August, I'm usually a pretty proud plant mama.

The best laid plans of mice and men (and Mamas)

This Spring, however, I realized very quickly that all my careful bed planning didn't account for one totting chubby-fisted problem whose newfound joy in life is yanking and tasting any plant she can reach. I turn my back for a moment to find my wee one with a handful of marigold clenched in her fat fingers and a tiny leaf poking out of her pout. Now I'm in a mad frenzy trying to fish out flora from a toddler's mouth while googling whether marigolds will kill her... they won't.

What can Baby eat?

I've always believed that a little dirt never hurt, and that marigold probably just contributed to her gut microbiota, but to be safe, I did some research on edible plants that you can plant in your gardens. Here are a couple to consider planting planning next year:

  • Arugula, Kale & Lettuce: Not only are these safe to eat, but they also can add an easy healthy option to your dinner table. Leafy greens thrive in our cool temperatures and are less likely to bolt if planted in a shady spot. They also grow like weeds (especially kale), so you also won't be too heartbroken when baby rips it out.

  • Wild Bergamot: Also known as Bee Balm, this plant is safe to eat and helps the bees! (Bonus!) The flowers and young leaves are minty, but the plant has a smell similar to Earl Grey Tea.

  • Chives: Chives are easy to grow, deter pests, and when they bloom have pretty purple flowers. All parts of the plant are edible and will continue to regrow after being picked all summer long.

  • Cilantro: Some people love it, some hate it. You can find out what your baby thinks if you plant it.

  • Clover & Dandelions: Okay, not many of us are actively planting clover and dandelions, but if you see babe pop one of these into her mouth, know that they are safe and actually edible as well. One thing to be mindful of though, if you're fertilizing your lawn or using any kind of weed repellant, you don’t want baby eating that.

  • Cornflowers: Yes, they are a little invasive, so not ideal to plant in the Peace, but very pretty and 100% safe to eat.

  • Lavender: This lovely perennial is resistant to deer and other critters, and is great in the kitchen and the craft room. While neither varieties (French and English Lavender) are toxic, English Lavender is better suited for culinary use and tends to be hardier in our cold weather.

  • Marigolds: Technically you can eat them, but their strong scent don't make them a go-to choice in the kitchen. If baby eats them, she's safe but her hands might stink a bit.

  • Mint: Be wary, mint is very invasive (I plant mine in a pot) and can take over a garden bed quickly. It's safe for baby to put in her mouth and now you have a supply for when mama needs a mojito.

  • Nasturtiums: All varieties have edible leaves and flowers, and as a bonus, if you plant them around your veggies, they can draw pests away from your prized plants.

  • Pansies & Violets: Pretty faces and pretty tasty. Some fancy restaurants will use them as a decorative garnish. Maybe your little menace mangling your pansies is a future food critic with a taste for haute cuisine.

  • Petunias, Snapdragons, & Sunflowers: A few other common garden favourites that even though not usually consumed, not poisonous if baby gets a handful.

  • Edible Garden Peas: The stalks, leaves, flowers, and pods all can be eaten. In fact, young stalks are quite lovely in a salad. Note though, ornamental sweet peas (yes, the ones that smell so lovely) are poisonous and should be kept out of baby's reach.

What Can't Baby Eat?

On that note, here are a few other plants to keep out of baby's reach as they are poisonous or harmful if eaten:

  • Daffodil

  • Azalea

  • Holly

  • Morning Glory (the seeds are poisonous)

  • Foxglove

  • Hyacinth

  • Hydrangea

  • Rhododendron

  • Rhubarb (leaves are poisonous)

  • Iris

  • Lupins (some varieties are poisonous, so be wary)

  • Peace Lily

  • Poppies

Keep in mind that eating any flowering garden plant in large quantities isn't going to make you feel good (except maybe that kale), which means that you still need to keep a close eye on your little one when out in the garden. And lastly, proactivity is a mom's best friend, so make sure you have Poison Control BC's number saved in your contacts (1-800-567-8911). When in doubt, assume the worst and give them a call.

Stay safe and happy gardening!

A.M. Cullen lives and writes in Fort St. John.