Create a garden space for your kids and watch both grow.
Photography by Mark Fonville
[dropcap]Parents[/dropcap] often ask me how to get young members of the family involved in gardening. Most kids love the outdoors, and playing in the dirt comes naturally to most, so creating a kid-friendly garden at home is actually a no-brainer. In addition to growing flowers and their own food, gardening allows your children to enjoy quality time outdoors. Through gardening, kids will enjoy the fruits of labor, experience failure, celebrate success and learn the rewards of patience.
Make Planning Fun
To get started, decide where you will give your kids their own space. Whether it’s a small space in your garden or a small raised bed, give them the responsibility for their own garden area. Let them plan what they want to grow and how they want to grow it. Younger gardeners will need more guidance, but this can be blended into the fun of planning. Cultivate their creativity and ideas, and praise each milestone, such as during planting and cleanup times.
Creating the Garden Space
It doesn’t take a lot of space to design a kid-friendly garden. One option is to use a small, colorful wading pool, and fill it with garden soil to create the perfect raised bed. Show your kids a healthy soil recipe by mixing 1 part garden soil and 1 part compost. Drill holes in the bottom and sides of the pool for drainage.
Since this is most likely their first garden, I suggest encouraging young gardeners to grow herbs. Whether they start from seed or seedling, herbs grow quickly, many producing beautiful and colorful blooms. Another wonderful thing about herbs is once you see the leaves, you can eat them. Kids will love tasting their harvest.
Sweet basil has floppy, fragrant leaves and makes a very tasty pesto. Kids will love this herb on homemade pizza.
Mint grows so easily that sometimes it’s hard to contain, but it has a wonderful, refreshing fragrance and a flavor that tastes like toothpaste. It can be used in drinks and is good as a tummy settler.
Lemon thyme has a fragrance and flavor that youngsters will love, like lemonade in the summertime.
Sage has pretty, blue flowers, and this herb will remind kids of our friend the turkey and of Thanksgiving.
Stevia, sometimes known as sweet leaf, has a sweet cane flavor, and kids will enjoy sampling this herb as it grows.
A delightful way for kids to keep track of their plants is to create simple and colorful garden markers. All you need are free paint stirrers from a home improvement store; three or four colors of acrylic paint; a tube of fabric paint; and acrylic sealer. Supervise your kids as they paint each side of the stirrers, then seal the stirrers as they finish painting them. Finally, let them write the names of the plants on the markers with the tube of fabric paint. DIY garden markers will make their garden areas colorful and inviting.
When it comes to kids in the garden, keep it motivating and fun. Set clear guidelines from the beginning about what is acceptable and what is unacceptable in and around the garden. Most importantly, make it a positive experience. Inspire them to be imaginative and creative in their efforts. We teach children by example, so let them witness your love and excitement in gardening by the joy you share in your efforts. There is no better encouragement for our “green” gardeners.
Seed Bombs Away!
Why not make seed bombs to toss in the garden? Kids will enjoy this fun and messy project from start to finish. You will need: a large mixing bowl; some air-dry clay, which can be found at any art supply or health food store; compost; and seeds.
1. Mix approximately 5 handfuls of peat-free compost to 1 handful of seed to 3 handfuls of clay. Combine the compost and seeds thoroughly, then mix in the clay. You may need to add a little water so it all sticks together. It should have the consistency of biscuit dough.
2. Shape the mixture into egg-sized balls.
3. Dry the seed bombs in a warm, dry space. They’ll need to sit for at least three to four hours. Overnight is ideal.
4. If you want to save any, keep them in a cool, dark place, but not for more than a few weeks. Once they dry, it’s bombs away! Kids will love tossing seed bombs into their garden spaces. Make sure they throw their seed bombs right before a good rain or give the seeds plenty of water afterward for better growth.