Do you remember playing outside in the summer, digging in the dirt, making mud pies, trying to catch bugs? Children and the outdoors just go together, it’s a natural affinity. Harness that energy and curiosity by involving them in your garden. Gardening teaches responsibility, offers short term and long term rewards and is something you can enjoy as a family.
Children of all ages can participate. Even small children can help plant larger seeds such as corn, peas, beans, pumpkins and sunflowers. Give older children a space of their own and let them choose what they would like to grow. If you don’t have a lot of space for a flowerbed or vegetable garden, plant a container garden. Fairy gardens are very popular!
Plant some quick growing and maturing seeds such as radishes in your garden spot. They germinate quickly and mature in about 3 weeks. Harvesting the little red balls is fun, even if the kids don’t like to eat them. Other fast germinators are corn–5 to 7 days; cucumber–7 to 10 days; lettuce–7 to 10 days; and watermelon–5 to 7 days. Some flower seeds that are quick to germinate include Centaurea (bachelor ‘s buttons)–7 to 10 days; Dianthus (Sweet William)–5 to 10 days; Rudbeckia (gloriosa daisy)–5 to 10 days; ageratum–6 to 10 days; cosmos–5 to 7 days; sweet alyssum–8 to 15 days; zinnia–5 to 7 days; and marigold–5 to 7 days. Kids are tactile by nature so choose plants that are kid-friendly. Herbs such as lemon verbena and mint are wonderful aromatics and kids will recognize the fragrances. You can even grow them in containers, window boxes or individual pots. Grow something unusual just for fun like these funky gourds, white pumpkins or colored carrots.
One fun project with herbs is to plant a pizza garden. Choose plants that you can actually use in making homemade pizza – onion, garlic, basil, oregano and tomatoes. Another idea is to use the shape of a pizza as design inspiration and mark a big circle, divide it into wedges and plant a different plant in each wedge.
Remember to have your children help with the upkeep of the garden. The reward is the experience itself, however, fresh veggies and pretty flowers are fun, too!