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Gardening is a fun solo endeavor for anyone, but when you bring your children into it, it will turn into a fun family event that will last all summer.
Children love to play outside and want to discover and learn about the world around them. Teaching children how to grow and nurture a garden is amazing fun,a great activity for home education and may even help your children to eat healthier if you teach them how to grow a vegetable garden together. Did I mention it is fun? I mean really fun!
What can you grow in a garden for children?
To start, discuss with your children what type of garden you will be growing. Will it be plants and flowers, fruit and vegetables, herbs or a mixture of everything? Once this has been discussed and decided, let your children help you pick out what they want to grow.
If you start off with spinach or kale, which are very easy to grow, their first thoughts are probably going to be “are you going to make me eat that?” It is better to let them in on the process from the beginning. Let your children help pick out the fruit and vegetables you will be growing.
Another factor to consider is are they going to have their own little part of your garden or just everyone joins together. Don’t forget that you can grow a variety of different plants, fruit and vegetables in pots if you don’t have much space. We love to grow herbs in pots, things such as sage, chives, oregano, coriander and mint are fairly easy to grow in pots.
When choosing seeds, think about the age of your children, small hands will do better with bigger seeds. The following list is a small guide to bigger seeds that grow fast and will keep your children’s interest longer. These plants grow faster and produce fruits (or seeds, in the case of the sunflowers) fairly quickly and consistently throughout the growing season.
Guide your children towards easier starter plants such as sunflowers which will help bring bees and birds to your garden. These pollinators are an integral part of the gardening process. There are some pros and cons to planting sunflowers but you can decide if they are worth it in your garden. I love them! Many people plant them around the edges of their garden so they are near enough to attract the pollinators but far enough away to not cause harm to other plants.
Green beans and snap peas are another great starter for children as they grow heartily and quickly. When you harvest them, they will grow more, allowing you to have a supply throughout the growing season.
Radishes and marigolds are also great starters as they grow quickly and are hearty plants that can endure some rough handling from little hands while they learn. Carrots, courgettes, and pumpkins all fall into this category as well.
Helping Children Start their Garden from Seeds
If you are starting from seeds, teaching your children how to plant, water, and germinate the seeds is an important first step. They will get to watch as the first seedlings appear and this will get them wondering how that happened and what comes next. (Cue a home education science lesson on the life cycle of a seed).
Showing your children how to get the soil just right and what to start the seeds in is another rewarding experience. You can easily start with seedling starters from any nursery now but you can also create your own DIY starter kits. This is a great project to start during the colder months right before the planting season starts. Work with your children getting everything ready.
Buying Seedlings for the Garden
Buying seedlings from your local farmer’s market or nursery is another affordable way to start your young gardener’s experience. It is a fun trip and if allowed you can show them how to pick out the heartiest looking seedlings.
You can explain how to make sure your soil is just right for growing plants and pick up the necessary additives so your garden will continue nourishing your plants.
When you are helping your children pick out seedlings, look to make sure they are hearty and not flowering to ensure you get the most from your plants.
When do you start your kids gardening?
While kids of all ages are welcome to help with gardening, there are some basic skills that are important to have (or learn) before digging in. Any age child can help garden as long as they are keen and interested in gardening. Children are willing to help and are absorbing all of the knowledge they can. For very young children make sure they have the motor skills to handle seedlings without demolishing them, but if you start them when they are toddlers they can learn along the way.
While it depends on the gardening area you live in, most will begin garden preparations in February/March if you are going to start with seeds. Let your children pick what they want to grow and get the seeds started indoors. This is a great way to teach kids about the germination process and how growing seeds work. Starting from seeds lets you and your child follow the entire lifecycle from seed to sprout to flower and finally the fruit.
Allow your children to help with pulling weeds and adding mulch to the soil also. Explain why these things are done. As children, most of us loved getting our hands dirty – our children are no different! When it is time to plant the sprouts outside, let them in on that fun, too. Teach them how big of a hole to dig and how to water a seedling for the best results.
Children, like adults, love to see the fruits of their labor. Allowing your children in on the process gives them something to feel proud about and maybe even to show off. This is a great time to bond and connect with your children while teaching them a life skill they will keep with them forever. Your children will cherish the moments you spend together in the garden, even after they’re grown and have children of their own.