Gardening with kids can be challenging, especially if you enjoyed gardening before you had kids. Here are some tips I’ve learned over the past three years of motherhood to help you in your quest to get yourself in the dirt with your kids! Our kids are like little seeds, themselves- ready to grow and learn. Give them a chance to watch the wonder of a small garden patch (or a large one) this year!
Preparation of the soil: Read books about gardening with your kids (go to my Barefoot Books website for some great titles about gardening!). Think of this as “compost time.“ Talk about how a seed grows. Talk about how long it takes, the necessary components (sun, water, healthy soil). Have your child help you decide where to plant and do some weeding, together. Remind each other that a garden takes work, but is more fun with a friend! When it comes time to actually prepare your garden, don’t forget to add real compost and work it into the soil.
Choose the right seeds or seedlings: Take your children to the nursery with you and let them pick a few things they really want to grow, but be realistic about the space you have as well as the feasibility. A peach tree will not grow well here, but you could probably grow some carrots or easy flowers like sunflowers. When choosing seeds or seedlings, consult your local nursery for quick growing, cold-resistant varieties. If one of your little “seeds” is not interested in gardening, don’t force it. He may enjoy it later in the summer when it’s time to harvest!
Planting: Find a sunny spot, and do let your children help with this part. It is very challenging to not follow behind them and straighten out their rows or re-space their seeds, but let them have a space that is their own to plant as they like. Then make sure they respect your part of the garden as well! By letting them own a bit of earth in your big garden (or maybe just a pot on the porch) you are letting them grow, too, in responsibility, stewardship and a love for the outdoors.
Water and Feed: If you don’t have sprinklers or a timer, make sure to water your little garden everyday. Kids need water, too, so please soak them liberally. This works best if you don’t mind getting a little soaked, too. Feed your plants and your children healthy nutritious food. Vegetables and flowers (especially tomatoes) need lots of nutrients to grow. Little people need more nutrients in the summer, too.
Harvest: It’s time to enjoy all that hard work! Your little gardener has sprouted his own fruit and is ready to share it with the world. Flowers make lovely gifts for friends and family or just to have around the house. Have your child help you harvest flowers and vegetables, and don’t be a stickler about washing everything first- there is something very satisfying about enjoying something right off the plant. Even the most reluctant herbivore cannot resist munching on something he grew himself.
A final word: Don’t forget to warn your friends if you’re planning to drop a truckload of zucchini on their porch. Zucchini blossoms are delicious, too. Enjoy the sun and have some fun!