The Joys of Gardening With Your Children
My fondest memories of gardening are spending each summer with my great grandmother, who could coax almost any plant to grow and prosper. As her garden partner, I'd water my small patch of soil in the garden each morning, help plant vegetables and flowers, scramble high up in the fruit trees to pick peaches, plums and nectarines as they ripened, and apprentice in the kitchen, cooking and canning the extra fruit and vegetables from our garden for the winter months. It never seemed like work. Instead, it gave me an opportunity to spend time with my favorite grandparent, and that experience is among my most cherished as a child. And it's one that I have passed on to my children, as well.
Expose your children to the joy of gardening at an early age, and they will soon become hooked. I gave each of my kids a small garden patch of their own. It was thrilling to watch their excitement as the plants grew and flowered. It gave them pride, ownership and a sense of accomplishment over their own plot of land. No vegetables ever tasted sweeter to them than the ones they grew themselves.
Some children will want to watch seeds develop into plants, while others will enjoy studying nature like the ladybugs, butterflies and praying mantis attracted to our garden each year. All children seem to like getting their hands dirty digging in the soil.
7 Tips for Your Kids' Gardens
- Kids are territorial, so give them their own patch of garden where they can grow vegetables or flowers of their choosing.
- Let them get dirty. It's fun for them.
- Kids are fascinated by animals, insects and bugs. Encourage wildlife habitats to attract birds and butterflies.
- Give your children their own gardening tools: trowel, hand fork, watering can and a place to store them.
- Relax and let the children have fun.
- Garden in the morning and the late afternoon to avoid the hottest parts of the day.
- In summer months, make certain kids have water, sun hats and a high-factor sunscreen for protection.
Fun Garden Projects for Children
Watching seeds germinate fascinates kids of all ages. It lets them see how plants grow. Sprout seeds in a jar of water and a wet paper towel using alfalfa, beets, chickpeas, lentils, and mung beans seeds. They are all perfect choices. They'll sprout in just a couple days, and the kids can add them to their salads and sandwiches for extra crunch. Or, look for a sprout kit in home centers and nurseries.
Buy Seed Packets
Let the kids pick out their own vegetables and flowers to grow. Talk to your local nurseryman to learn what varieties grow best in your local soil and climate. Younger children will want to grow bright flowers. Older kids may want instead to grow edible plants. A salad bowl garden could include arugula, lettuce, spinach, scallion, beets, cherry tomato, corn, cucumber, nasturtium and radish. This also helps children understand the origins of food.
Scratch 'n' Sniff Herb Garden
Growing herbs is a terrific way to learn about edible plants. They are hardy and wonderfully forgiving; they thrive on rocky soil, with minimal water and care. If garden space is at a premium, then consider planting an herb garden in a small window box or other container. A 1-by-2-fot space is all you need for several varieties of fragrant herbs. Choose a sunny location and well-drained soil for most herbs. Start with rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano and parsley, and encourage the kids to periodically crush several leaves between their fingers to smell the different fragrances. You'll also have the added benefit of fresh herbs for the kitchen.
Children are fascinated by bees and butterflies, and they make good guests in the garden. It is easy to attract them by planting a hanging basket or pot with their favorite flowers. Pick out a sunny spot and hang the basket from a tree branch or with a bracket attached to your patio. Choose from plants such as lavender, fuchsia, marigold, alyssum and convolvulus. Then watch as the beautiful butterflies swarm.
Strawberry Jar Planter
Kids love summer strawberries and their sweet flavor. It's easy to plant and grow in your own terra-cotta strawberry jar planter. Choose a planter or large pot with a good-sized drainage hole in the bottom. Place it in a sunny spot and keep it well watered. Strawberries are thirsty plants and do need regular watering. Feed the plants once a week after they come into flower. Rotate the pot for even growth.
Flower Power Garden
Annuals can't be beat for intense color - and kids love color. Buy annuals as plants in early summer, and they will reward the kids with bright colors until the fall. Kid-friendly varieties include sunflowers, petunias, impatiens, pansies, violas, dahlias and marigolds. Water well and feed regularly for best color.