Making a garden with your kids is a fun learning experience. Help your child learn to maintain gardens on their own.
Gardening with your child, whether you’re growing vegetables or flowers, can be an educational experience that is also fun. Successful gardening requires patience, dedication, and careful planning.
If you are planning to garden with children it is particularly important to plan ahead. Keeping your child’s skill level and attention span in mind, you will need to plan out an appropriate garden and gardening chores. There are several ways to successfully combine children and gardening. Children can be assigned small chores as part of maintaining a large family garden, children can be given their own small garden plot either within a larger garden or all on its own to maintain, and container gardens are also an excellent option.
Before you head out to play in the dirt, you need to make sure your child is properly equipped! Many chain department stores carry child sized gardening supplies including gloves, shovels, trowels, rakes and other common equipment. Taking a trip to your local library to check out books about gardening, and how plants grow will provide valuable information that will help enrich your child’s gardening experience.
It is also important to settle on a garden plan, and the contents of the garden. Involve your children in deciding what plants to grow. Ask them what vegetable they like to eat, or what flowers they like. Again, having a book to consult at this point is very handy. Children can look at the pictures of flowers, plants or vegetables in the book and use them as a guide for selecting what they would like in their own garden. Research the types of plants you would like to grow in order to ensure that they will grow well in your area and during your current (or intended) growing season.
You will also want to decide with your child if you will be starting your plants from seeds, or if you will purchase potted plants from a local nursery. Starting plants from seeds is more economical and generally offers a wider range of plants to choose from. The experience of planting the seed, tending it, and watching it grow into a plant and bear fruit is something most children enjoy. Some plants are difficult to start from seed, in which case buying a potted plant helps ensure good results, and provides instant gratification for younger children who may be too impatient to watch their garden grow. Once you have your gardening equipment and have decided what you’d like to grow it is time to plan out your garden.
A family garden is a wonderful experience for children. Even the smallest of children enjoy the opportunity to be outside, and toddlers can be given small jobs that will make them feel included. Older children can take an active roll in planning and maintaining a family garden. If you would like to have a large garden, you will need to ensure that as the adult you have the time to maintain it as the responsibility will ultimately fall to you. Children can help with everything from planting the seeds and/or started plants to watering, composting, mulching, weeding and harvesting. Assign each child a daily, weekly, or ‘as needed’ chore that will be their special job. Be clear in explaining the job, and be sure to take the time to explain why that job is important to maintaining the garden!
If your child is old enough to maintain their own small garden plot then the work and the reward of planning and maintaining it will be all theirs! It is a good idea to start small. It is much better to have a small well tended garden than one that is too large to maintain! Your child can be given a plot within a larger garden, or a separate garden of their own. Raised garden beds are also excellent for children since they are so accessible. If you are planning a raised garden for your child, make sure that the width is narrow enough for your child to easily reach the center of the bed. The raised bed can be any length!
Last but not least, container gardening is a wonderful way to create a small, easy to manage child friendly garden that is also space conscious for those who are unable to have large in ground gardens. Many plants, vegetables and flowers can be successfully grown in containers ranging from small to very large. Chain discount stores generally carry a wide range of planters from traditional round pots of long rectangular shaped planters that are excellent for container gardens. Flowering annuals are inexpensive, grow well and look beautiful in pots. There are also a huge number of ornamental plants that grow well in pots both indoors and out. Garden nurseries often carry special varieties of vegetables that grow well in containers. Tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, green beans, squash, cucumbers, leaf lettuce, carrots, radishes, and a great many herbs all do well in containers.
A few other particularly kid friendly and easy to grow vegetables for in ground or raised bed gardens include: carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, peas, radishes, tomatoes, broccoli, beans, onions, watermelon, and squash. What ever gardening method you choose, enjoy the time spent watching your child, and your garden grow.