Time outside helps children remain healthy by providing sunlight – important for vitamin D – and excellent exercise. Instead of spending time confronting your kids in an effort to get them to leave their electronics behind, join your children outside for quality time in the garden. They will benefit not only from improved health, but will learn the important lesson of environmental awareness.
Prepare for Gardening with Your Children
It is best to prepare the planting area before your children’s first gardening experience. Too much toil at the beginning of their gardening adventure can be discouraging, especially for very young children. Test your vegetable garden soil and add any lacking nutrients. Use a tiller or hoe to prepare the area, but let your children help make the rows.
Young children love pushing and pulling, so provide a small cart or wheelbarrow for your children to use. Garden centres frequently have child-sized gloves. Although kid-sized garden implements sound like a good idea, some are not sturdy enough, so use regular-sized tools as much as possible.
What to Plant with Your Children
When deciding what to plant with your kids, consider your children’s favourites. Look for flower colours they will love and plant vegetables they like to eat. You want to make sure your children see some quick results and well as maintain an active interest and a positive attitude. Choose flower seeds for bright, colourful blooms, and include a few annuals for instant results. Don’t forget some perennial shrubs and a tree or two. Children love seeing these plants grow over the years.
The vegetables we have listed are easy to grow, have short growing seasons, and are fun to harvest. Although you can grow all of them from seed, you may want to buy a few plants if you want quicker yields.
It seems as if radishes mature overnight, making them an excellent choice for a kid’s garden. The seeds germinate in 3-5 days and you children will be able to pull them in only about three weeks.
The best lettuce varieties are the loose-leaf. One thing great about lettuce is the long growing season – 40 to 50 days – and the fun of repeated pickings for salads.
Grow these sweet yummy mouthfuls next to a 2’ stake or in containers. Your kids will enjoy using a watering can or bucket, as the plant’s leaves must be kept dry. It will take 50-75 days harvest, but the wait is worth it.
Another quick germinator (4-8 days), bush beans are easy for little ones to pick. Try two plantings a few weeks apart to extend the harvest. Like cherry tomatoes, water the soil, but keep the leaves dry.
Most children prefer the red varieties, which is great, because they mature faster than the white varieties. Show your children how to plant seed potatoes in furrows 12-15 inches apart, with eyes pointing up. Your children will enjoy mounding the soil as the plant grows. Harvest when the plants fade.
Yes, there are many other vegetables for your children to try. The first year, stick with those they enjoy, and then add one or two that may be new to them. Remember that homegrown vegetables taste different and better than store bought. Our children refused to eat store-bought eggplant and Brussel sprouts after tasting tender, garden fresh varieties.
The flowers we have listed below are easy to grow from seed and very colourful. Many reseed, bringing additional years of enjoyment.
There are many varieties of this “wild” flower, but you are probably most familiar with the tall plants with bright pink and white flowers. Although they reseed themselves, they are not invasive.
Plant these colourful orange and yellow flowers in your vegetable garden to help control pests.
Easy to grow, these sturdy orange, yellow, and red flowers thrive when ignored, needing little water. Just make sure you plant in full sun. Since the flowers are edible, your children can add them to their salads for an interesting treat.
Moss Rose (portulaca)
A ground-covering plant, tiny rose-shaped flowers burst forth in a variety of bright colours. Again, these will reseed themselves and return year after year.
Another bright, multi-coloured flower, the tall stalks of these plants make them an excellent choice at the back of a flowerbed. Avoid getting the leaves wet. These hardy flowers last a long time in a vase, so encourage your children to clip some for a colourful arrangement.
Children are curious, love to play in the dirt, and enjoy learning by doing, all of which make them natural gardeners. Gardening is excellent physical activity, educational, and teaches responsibility, patience, and a love of nature. So, spend some quality time this spring and summer gardening with your children.