How do you get the younger members of your family started? Whether it is a family project or school learning experience here are a few things to consider:
Planning the Garden
Space: How much room do you have? If you have a large sunny lot, then 4 feet by 4 feet is plenty to grow most things. You can section off the area with landscape ties or just raise the garden bed to help with good drainage and access. If you have a balcony or limited area your garden space may be one or more large pots. You can choose what to plant by reading gardening books together and picking out flowers and vegetables. Make it simple. Let your new gardeners make most of the decisions.
Plants: You can choose your plants either by seed or bulb or transplanting bedding plants that have already been started. Start the indoor seeds now. Egg cartons make great containers for your new seeds. Fill them with sterilized soil and have fun with a spray bottle to mist your seedlings. Kids love water! Just make sure you get some on the plants.
Some of the easiest and most popular plants include: flowers such as nasturtium, sunflowers, violas and pansies, sweet peas, and marigolds;
and vegetables such as pumpkins, beans, peas, carrots, radishes, lettuce and cherry tomatoes. They are all easy to grow, colorful and not poisonous. Whatever plants you choose, make sure you have their favorite plant in their garden and have them draw a picture of how their garden will look. You can also take pictures of their garden as it grows.
Structure: Don’t forget to allow for trellis or bamboo poles for climbers such as sweetpeas or Scarlet runner beans.
Signs: Everyone likes to see their name in print. (example: Lauren’s garden) Having their name posted at the front of the bed makes them feel proud of it and they will feel like taking ownership. With group plantings, you might want Wayne’s carrots, Cheryl’s radishes, etc.
Add Themes to your garden such as Alice in Wonderland, Dinosaur hill, or ladybug heaven. Be creative. You want to hold their interest while they wait for the fruits of their labour.
Explaining the Process
Water - All plants need water on a regular basis in order to grow.
Food - Most new gardeners need help with this one. The NPK or Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potash lesson can be learned and it may be as simple as Nitrogen produces the green, Phosphorus is flower power and root growth and Potash helps makes the plant strong and prevent disease. This is a good time to get the family involved with a compost bin and learning the value of mulching to feed the plants, conserve water and reduce weeds.
Soil - good soil encourages vigorous plants. With a raised bed you can start off with good top soil and a soil booster to get the plants off to a good start.
Sun - 6 hours of sunlight or more is great for many plants. Choose a nice sunny spot for vegetables but if you are surrounded by shade perhaps a flowering shade garden is the answer.
Tip: Watching a plant grow can be fascinating for new gardeners. One method to try indoors is to buy a glass bulb vase and watch the roots grow. This way the new gardener can see what goes on above and below the soil.
Tools: A young gardener wants everything the adult gardener has but in their size. Buy them a small shovel or trowel, small gardening gloves, or a small bucket. They might have special garden boots or shoes and their own garden nozzle or watering fan to give the plants a gentle spray or even their own watering can in their favorite color. Don’t forget the garden hat to protect them from the sun and sunscreen for when it gets hot.
Finishing Touches You can add whimsical characters - they don’t have to cost a lot. You can recycle toys or household items. Visit second hand or thrift stores, or flea markets to find marvelous treasures. If a budget is not a problem, then garden centers are filled with wonderful items to tempt everyone.
Things to keep in mind. Don’t do it all yourself. Let new gardeners do as much as possible. Be flexible, seeds do not have to be planted in rigid rows. Why not Squiggles or rainbow shapes? Allow for some veggies to be pulled up early...it’s difficult to be patient.
Encourage young people to add personal touches like a shell off the beach or a favorite plastic toy to decorate their beds while they wait. If the weather is inclement, you might want to have indoor garden projects like decorating garden hats or painting rubber boots or adding sparkle to your gardening gloves with fabric paint.
You can find more ideas from the many books and internet sites that relate to children’s garden. Keep it simple and most important keep it fun and you and your loved ones can share many hours together exploring the world of gardening and creating wonderful memories.