Gardening with Kids

Looking for an family activity with a pay off? Start a garden! You don’t need acres and acres of land. Heck, you don’t even need land. Anyone, any age can learn to garden. Gardening with kids is a great way to introduce them to all sorts of concepts: photosynthesis, compost, the water cycle and the idea that all food does not come neatly packaged from the grocery store. There are two big pay offs to gardening with children. 1) Kids will often eat vegetables they normally balk at if they had a hand in growing them. 2) Plant wisely and you can save money on your weekly grocery bill and eat foods you can feel sure about.

Getting organized and getting started

Decide what kind of garden you want to plant. Vegetables? Herbs? Flowers? How much space do you have? Apartment dwellers can plant a surprising amount in containers on a balcony. If you have a yard, think about the quantity of produce you buy and how much you think you can manage? 12‘ x 12‘ is a great size to start with. Go larger or smaller depending on the size of your lot.

There are almost as many ways to plant a garden as there are vegetables. Get some books from the library and think about what might work best for your budget. Options to consider are: straw bale gardening, raised bed gardening, and square foot gardening. Once you have decided what type of garden you are going to have, it’s time to decide what to plant.

Find out what your growing zone is. If you have a neighbor who is an established gardener ask her for some tips - don’t be shy, gardeners love to talk to other gardeners! Make a chart of planting times and what to plant when. Have your kids help you decide what to plant. A nice online resource is Sprout Robot. Once you’ve put your information into their website, they will send you email reminders about what needs to be done each week.

When it’s time to get outside and plant, remember that gardening is messy. It is extra-messy with kids. Let the kids wear old clothes and shoes (or go barefoot) and have the hose ready for a quick rinse off before you go back inside. With very young children, it’s nice to plant a few plants from the local nursery (tomatoes and peppers). Little kids have a hard time waiting for sprouts, much less actual vegetables!

Gung-ho Garden Projects

While you wait for things to grow, don’t let the kids lose interest. Put them to work making garden markers. Let them paint containers to plant herbs or flowers in (these make great gifts for grandma). With kids over four, spend some time making mosaic stepping stones. These projects can be done inexpensively and can last for years.

Good luck

Remind yourself as well as the kids that this is a learning project. With each garden you plant you learn more and more. Celebrate what does grow - find a new recipe to make together with your harvest. The important thing is to go ahead, get your hands dirty and have some fun outside together.

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