Grow A Gardener (Part 1)

Teaching your kids to dig gardening.

By Lynn Coulter | Photos By Jamie Cole

Winter is a great time to plan for the next growing season. Get your kids and/or grandkids involved and you’ll grow more than nutritious fruits, herbs and vegetables. You’ll raise a new crop of enthusiastic gardeners.

The key to gardening with children, says Karen Creel, who blogs as the Garden Chick and coaches adults on gardening with the younger generation, is focusing on age-appropriate activities and having fun. Little ones can sow large, fast-growing seeds like sunflowers and beans. Older kids can sell produce from roadside stands, with adult supervision, and keep the profits, or donate their harvest to a food pantry.

A child’s garden can be an outdoor classroom. Introduce your kids to science when you talk about fertilizers, and nature when you look for bugs. Practice reading skills with seed catalogs and packets. Of course, you can simply enjoy teaching your children about raising healthy foods and beautiful flowers, too.

Either way, you’re passing on valuable life skills and producing a lasting harvest: a new generation of gardeners.

Getting Started

• Show your kids how to test the soil with a kit or send a sample to your county Extension agent. Add amendments as needed.

• Let your kids help choose a garden site by watching the sun and considering the site’s proximity to water. Watch the soil after a rainfall and talk about good drainage.

• Use raised beds, which are easier for kids to reach across. Concrete blocks are inexpensive and easy to arrange for beds less than 2 feet tall.

• Help them decide what to plant, but if they’re only interested in radishes and roses, that’s OK. This is about learning, having fun, and revving up their enthusiasm.

Kid-Friendly Garden Designs

• A round “pizza garden,” with pie-shaped sections for tomatoes, peppers, onions, basil and oregano.

• A salad bowl garden, with many different kinds of lettuces, peppers, tomatoes and edible flowers like nasturtiums.

• A playhouse garden: Train beans to grow on bamboo poles arranged in a tepee shape, or grow sunflowers in a large square, to form living walls. Want a roof? Grow morning glories up the sunflower stalks and let them weave together overhead. With either structure, leave a “door” so kids can enter.

• A touch-and-sniff garden: Invite kids to “please touch” with textured or fragrant plants like lamb’s ear and wooly thyme, as well as chocolate, orange and other mints.

• A fun, potted garden: Let kids plant in colorful metal buckets or sand buckets with holes punched in them for drainage. Plants can sprout from the beds of toy dump trucks and tractors, wheelbarrows, and even in outgrown cowboy or rain boots.