What are the three things almost every kid loves most? If they’re not at the top of the list, the following would be in the top ten, I’m sure: Playing in the water, digging in the dirt, and getting really dirty. What if a byproduct of these activities is that they would learn to like vegetables? Gardening with kids could just get them eating their vegetables!
I haven’t met a child yet that, when they grew their own garden, didn’t eat and enjoy the harvest. Whether it’s tomatoes, lettuce, or even radishes, kids seem to benefit from the art of gardening. How do we get them involved?
Gardening with kids
Start by giving them a little space of their own. If you have a small (tiny) space by your garden plot, designate that as their garden. Set them up for success – make sure the soil has the appropriate amendments, it’s a sunny location, good drainage. If you don’t have a small plot, consider a container garden for their first attempt. The goal is for your child to have a manageable space in which to take ownership. Remember that gardening with kids is teaching them the gardening for beginners basics.
Next, plan what you want to grow. Radishes are always a winner – the seeds germinate quickly, and they are ready to pick in less than a month. Sunflowers are also an excellent choice if you have the extra space. Choose a few varieties and let your child choose what they want. Try to choose plants that can grow from seed, but mix in some that are already started, like tomatoes, too. Homegrown potatoes are an easy and successful choice, too for a child’s garden.
Pass on the kiddie garden tools and buy good ones. Nothing is more frustrating for a child or adult than to have a tool that just won’t do the job. Adult hand tools are good for smaller kids, and you can either purchase their own long-handled tools and cut them shorter or just let them use yours. Some stores and websites even carry a smaller version of adults tools for kids, and those are fine. Just try to stay away from the junk tools that are out there.
Let the child dictate their pace. If they want to spend more time playing in the dirt than pulling weeds, so be it. It’s their garden and their space. Not all kids want to do every task related to their garden. You may need to help with weeding or removing pests.
Get creative. Grow gourds, plant a spaghetti garden (spaghetti squash, tomatoes, Italian herbs, onions, garlic), grow plants that are unusual colors (check out heirloom tomatoes, purple potatoes, different kinds of lettuce). Miniature veggies are always good for a big impression. Grow some tall sunflowers in a circle, and make a flower teepee. Make the garden interesting!
Finally, let your child harvest and prepare their veggies. Let them be proud of what they’ve accomplished, and show off their new-found gardening skills. Their garden isn’t about feeding the family; it’s an introduction to a new hobby, their learning new skills, and allowing them to have the support to be successful. This should be an enjoyable and fun experience for everyone, it is gardening with kids!