Gardening is a great opportunity to involve your children in the natural process of growing food and provides valuable knowledge that they can take into adulthood. When children participate in gardening they develop a relationship with the earth learning valuable lessons like patience, responsibility, and loss. Most importantly, they learn where food comes from.
Set aside a small plot that is easy for your child to access. Choose food and flower items that are easy to grow and do not require excessive care. Tomatoes, strawberries, basil, calendula (beautiful red, yellow and orange flowers), and sunflowers are perfect starter plants for a children’s garden. These plants are easily grown from seeds. If you do purchase small starter plants it is essential to buy plants that have not been grown using GMO seeds and harmful pesticides. Emphasizing the use of organics at a young age is important as it instills awareness in your child that encourages conscious consumption throughout their life. Mark the holes where the plants will be placed so they are easily identified by your child and ensure that each plant has enough space to grow. Encourage your child to dig the holes about six inches deep for starter plants and 1-2 inches deep for seeds. Buy a watering can your child can use to water their garden. Creating a watering schedule with your child will allow them to take responsibility for their project and follow through on their commitment to their garden.
There are many ways you can make your child’s garden project more exciting. Provide them with their own gardening tools, gloves and hat. Draw them to their gardening space by creating fairy gardens, dinosaur terrains, battlefields, or personal spaces for them to read or paint as their garden will encourage imagination. You can entice butterflies, dragonflies, and hummingbirds by planting specific herbs and flowers like calendula, lavender, bee balm, lily, iris, nasturtium cosmos, columbine, sage, oregano, and zinnia. If you have children who like to cook, or you have picky eaters and want to encourage them to try new things, choose plants and herbs that can be used in their favorite meals. Grow tomatoes, basil, and oregano for pizza or spaghetti. Kids will love picking and eating sweet peas off the vine. Make a salsa garden with tomatillos, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and cilantro. Grow berries to make homemade ice cream or popsicles. Make a pumpkin patch and show your children how turning their pumpkins can change their shape and size to make for unique and personal jack-o-lanterns.
You can buy a wide variety of organic and heirloom seeds at World of Nutrition. Refer to our class handout on Organic Gardening in the Treasure Valley for more helpful tips for starting your family garden this year!