Do your kids like to play in the dirt?
Are you looking for an ongoing project that you and your family can work on together?
Plan and plant a kid-friendly garden this spring with your kids.
In this article we’ll show you how to plant a garden this spring so you can enjoy a whole summer of kids’ gardening fun.
Why a Garden?
Gardens are wonderful for a variety of reasons. They help the planet and supply local healthy food to your family. Plus, they allow you to get outside with your kids on a regular basis.
Even though a garden can seem to be a lot of work, they are great fun and fairly simple when you plan and prepare.
They key is to choose what type of garden you want to grow as a family, and involve all members in every step of the process. Soon you’ll be able to enjoy the fruits (or vegetables) of your labor.
We’ve had a garden for the past two years. Each year, our daughter has gotten more excited about being in the garden. She simply LOVES to go outside and pull weeds, water the plants and try the new produce that we grow.
A family garden is fun for kids of all ages… and parents too! Image source: iStockPhoto.
Even very young kids will enjoy and benefit from being involved in a kid-friendly garden.
Before you get started, make sure you, as the parent, have the time it will take to plan, plant and care for the garden. The prepping and planting will take the longest amount of time, 3-4 hours or more, depending on the size of your garden.
You will also need to spend time outdoors several days a week to maintain it with your kids. But that’s kind of the point of this adventure!
Ready to start gardening with kids? Let’s get started.
You Will Need
- A spot that is ready for your garden
- Paper and pen for writing out your plan
- Gardening tools (a small spade, hoe)
- String for measuring
- Started plants (tomatoes, peppers, etc.)
- Seeds (flowers, squash, pumpkins, watermelon)
- Watering can or hose
- Hula hoops (for a salsa or pizza garden)
- Old tires (for potato towers)
- Square wooden box (for watermelons)
- Plant food (optional)
- Fertilizer (optional)
- 30 minutes of planning with your family
- A few hours to scout and prep the garden
- Plus however long a trip to get the seeds and plants will take
- 3-4 hours, depending on the size of your garden and the ages of your kids helping you
- 30-60 minutes per week for maintenance
Your yard or other outdoor land
One of the best things about doing a long-term project with your kids is that it will give you an ongoing common goal. For the next several months, your garden will be something you can work on together and talk about. This does not end with the planning and planting. You can care for the garden, gather the fruits and vegetables you grow and enjoy eating the fruits of your labor as a family.
#1: Plan Your Garden
There are many factors to take into account when you decide what type of kid-friendly garden you want to plant: ages of your kids, your location and your summer schedule. Once you figure out the basics, you can decide if you’ll plant flowers, fruit, vegetables, herbs or all of the above.
Children can plant a vegetable garden following these easy step by step instructions.
Have a family meeting and discuss the different options for your family garden.
You can plant:
1. A Rainbow Garden. Plant rows of flowers in sequence of a rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.
A perfect rainbow garden! Image source: iStockPhoto.
2. A Salsa Garden. Lay down a large hula hoop and plant ingredients that would make a yummy salsa within it. Plant hot peppers, onions, tomatoes and cilantro. Later this summer, you can make salsa from the ingredients all found in one hula-hoop. (Don’t forget the chips!) Note: You can also use the hula-hoop arrangement to plant the ingredients for a pizza garden: tomatoes, onion, green peppers, banana peppers and basil.
3. Potato Towers. Lay down 2 or 3 old tires, side by side, in a row. Fill each tire with soil and plant potatoes in each tire. When the potatoes sprout about 1 inch out of the dirt, add another tire on top and fill with soil again.
Re-purpose old tires into flower planters. Image source: iStockPhoto.
4. Square Watermelons. When your watermelon fruit comes, while it’s still attached to the plant, set it inside the wooden box. When it’s ripe, you will have a square watermelon. Make sure the box is held together with screws to easily access the fruit.
5. Counting Rows. Plant 1 squash plant, then 2 potato towers, then 3 peppers, and on and on up to however many rows you want.
6. ABC Garden. Plant herbs and vegetables in groups alphabetically. Put asparagus, arugula and acorn squash in one row. Then Brussels sprouts, basil and beets. Next is a row of carrots, cabbage and corn. And so on…
Gardening When You Live in the City
If you live in the city or an apartment building, it might be a little trickier for you to plant a garden, but it can still be done. Here are a few options:
- See if friends who have some land would like to start a kid-friendly garden with your family. Two families working on a garden means half the responsibility and twice the fun!
- Ask a family member who lives out of the city if you can borrow some of their yard for your family garden. You can thank them in fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Start a community garden in your town. Bring together several families who are in the same situation. Share the land and the responsibilities. Note: make sure the place you choose is close by, since you will need to go to the garden at least 2 or 3 times a week.
The final aspect to consider when planning a garden is your summer schedule. If you are very busy at the end of summer, look for plants that produce or bloom fast: green beans, flowers or herbs. If you are busy in the beginning of the summer, look for plants that produce or bloom slowly, like watermelon and corn. There are also very low-maintenance plants, such as squash, herbs and corn, which require less attention.
Check out this garden planting guide from Urban Farmer.
Once you figure out what you want to plant, map out where you’re going to plant it.
Some plants (zucchini and pumpkins) need room to spread out, others grow upwards (corn and potato tires), while some (carrots and beets) are buried. Draw a scale map of your yard and then add how and where you’re going to plant your garden.
Note: If possible, plant the garden near a water source. This way you may either use a hose to water or at least you won’t have to walk as far with a watering can.
Planning the garden, like the other aspects, is a great activity to do with your kids. It’ll prepare them for planting and taking care of the garden, and will lead to a conversation about the benefits of a garden. It’ll also create anticipation and excitement!
#2: Get Your Plants
Once you figure out what you are planting, you need to get the plants.
There are two ways you can do this.
Get seeds from a hardware store or any store with a “garden” section.
Flowers, corn, onion, carrots, beets or watermelon are all great items to grow from seeds.
Or you can get “starter” plants. These are plants that are already growing, and you simply plant them in the ground. You can find these at greenhouses, farmers’ markets, nurseries and large home improvement stores.
Consider buying starter blanks for herbs, tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables that are hard to grow from seeds. Image source: iStockPhoto.
Herbs, tomatoes, squash, peppers, eggplant or green beans are a little more difficult, so we suggest getting starter plants.
You have your plan, your seeds and starter plants. Guess what’s next?
#3: Plant the Garden
Before you gather the kids and head outside to plant, you’ll need to be sure that the soil is ready. If you are planting a large garden, you may even want to use a tiller to get it ready. You can rent these from certain hardware stores.
Note: You’ll want to prepare the garden before the day you plant it with the kids. Tilling ground with young kids running around can be stressful and no fun for your kids!
Preparing your soil for a garden.
Once the soil is ready, you are good to go!
On a day that is warm (not hot) and sunny, take your seeds, starter plants, map of the garden, hula hoops, 2 or 3 old tires (if planting potato towers) and your kids and go to your garden.
Use your plan to lay out the garden. Don’t plant anything until you have all of the plants and seed packets sitting on the ground where they will eventually be planted. Not only will this save time and reduce stress, but it will also allow you to get your kids involved in the process. You can tell them which seeds or starters to plant, and they will already know where it goes.
Lay out where all of the starter plants and seeds go before you start planting. Image source: iStockPhoto.
Planting salsa or pizza hula hoops? Lay the ring down first, and put the plants and seeds inside of it. Same thing goes for laying out the tires for the potato towers.
A few things about plant food and fertilizer:
If you have plant food, sit the plant or seed in a hole and then put a little fertilizer in. Do not put fertilizer right on the roots of a plant or a seed. This will burn the roots and kill the plant. Don’t worry. Plant food is completely safe.
#4: Care for and Harvest From Your Garden
Now that your garden has been planted, it’s time to take care of it. You’ll need to pull the weeds out, spray with organic bug repellant (if wanted) and water when it hasn’t rained. Put garden time on the family calendar at least 2-3 times a week.
Even though caring for a garden might not seem “fun” to a kid, there are many ways to make it enjoyable.
- Have a contest to see who pulls the most weeds. You can even keep a tab throughout the spring and summer.
- Take bandanas and wrap your kids’ legs together, so they have to water the plants while jumping. Note: do this for the plants on the edge of the garden, you don’t want a fun game to result in a trampled eggplant!
- Take your kids’ picture by the same plant once a week, so they can have a time-lapse record of their plant growing.
Note: Here’s a way to help young kids get used to the dirt and be more comfortable in nature. Put them in swimsuits, mix some soil and water and let them play in the mud! Don’t forget the sunscreen!
Caring for your garden takes time and hard work, but it’s quality time you’re spending with your family. Image source: iStockPhoto.
Remind your kids that they need to be patient. Each seed has a different germinating time, which is how long it’ll take you to see a little plant sprouting up. Since each plant takes a different amount of time to get a crop, you will be able to harvest some produce (green beans) before another (corn).
If you have salsa hula hoops, don’t worry; even though your peppers will be ready before your onion, it’s okay! Just be sure you pick the produce as you see it become ready. This way your plants will keep producing.
#5: End the Summer
After the summer is over, you’ll want to pick all of the produce.
Look for recipes you can make using the produce from your garden. For example, search for “zucchini recipes” on the Internet, and you’ll find recipes for zucchini bread, stuffed zucchini, ratatouille and more.
Once you pick your fresh fruits and vegetables, find recipes to highlight your crop. Image source: iStockPhoto.
Once all of the produce is picked, pull the plants out by the roots and till the garden. This will help prepare for next year’s garden.
If you happen to have an abundance (or bumper crop) of a particular produce like squash or tomatoes, a great way to make sure it doesn’t go to waste is to donate the extra to local food pantries or homeless shelters. Check to see if there are any rules about donating home-grown food before you pack it up though.
If you have a bumper crop, share your abundance with friends, neighbors or a local homeless shelter. Image source: iStockPhoto.
At the end of your garden season, ask your kids to write about their gardening experience to include with the photos taken throughout the summer. What was their favorite part of the garden?
Be sure to look at these notes before you start next year’s garden.
Some Final Thoughts…
We hope that we have inspired you to either “take the plunge” and plant a kid-friendly garden or turn your current garden into a fun kid adventure. It may take some work, but the rewards are well worth it!
You’ll enjoy many family feasts with ingredients from your gardening adventure. Image source: iStockPhoto.
What do you think? What has been your experience with gardens and kids? Do you have any other suggestions for kid-friendly gardens? We would love to see your garden. Leave a comment with your plans/ideas or post a picture after you plant your garden.