Springtime Fun: How To Start Your Own Family Garden
As the weather warms up and the school year comes to a close over the next several months, it’s time for children to leave the screens behind and engage in some outdoor fun! Over the last year, children have spent more time than ever before in front of screens, for distance learning, online extracurricular classes, video calls, online libraries, video games, and television shows. As we approach the spring and summer months, it is important to encourage children to spend plenty of time outside. One simple way to get kids outside more often is to start a family garden. Whether you have a big property with a lot of open space and sunlight, or a small enclosed patio, there are many ways to start growing plants of your own!
Step 1: Prepare your space.
Most plants need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day, so spend some time figuring out where that spot is in your backyard. If you are planting in the ground, be sure that the space is free of any weeds, sticks, and rocks (kids can assist in this part!). Turn over the soil, and have your kids help break up any dirt clods. Spread a layer of compost over the top of the soil, mix the compost layer with the soil, and then rake the area smooth. If you don’t have a good dirt area that gets a lot of sunlight, you can use pots instead. Make sure your pot has a hole on the bottom for drainage (or use a drill to cut one), and fill with a mixture of potting soil and compost. Children can help pour and scoop the soil into the pot. Deeper pots (at least 12-20 inches deep) are the best for gardening.
Step 2: Pick a start date.
You’ll want to make sure the weather is warm enough in your area before you begin planting. If your children are anxious to begin, you can start by planting seeds in small containers near a sunny door or window, which you can later transfer outdoors. If the weather has already warmed up, you can begin to plant seeds outside, or you can buy young plants from a local nursery or home improvement store. These plants are simple and convenient, and a great resource for kids who are too impatient to wait for seeds to sprout! It can also be a fun family outing to let your kids browse and pick out their own plants at the store.
Step 3: Pick your plants.
Some plants are easier to care for than others. If you’re not an experienced gardener, here are some ideas for plants to try at home:
Berries (like strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries): Berries are a big hit with most children, and are easy to collect - just be careful to watch out for thorns. Most berries can be planted in the spring and harvested in the summer and fall. Be aware that wild animals love berries, too, and your children might have to get used to sharing!
Herbs (like basil, mint, oregano, or thyme): Herbs are easy to grow and have a big payoff. They also smell amazing, which can add a fun sensory aspect to your child’s gardening experience. Herbs can be grown indoors as well!
Tomatoes: Cherry tomatoes are another plant with a big payoff. Plant them in April or May, and enjoy them throughout the summer.
Peas: Choose snap peas or snow peas, and harvest them after 2-3 months. They will taste the sweetest if you harvest them at this time.
Flowers: The more colorful, the better. Have your kids come with you to the nursery to pick out several varieties of flowers, and be sure to pay attention to sunlight needs and watering instructions.
Succulents: If you’re convinced you have a “black thumb,” succulents are an ideal choice because they require so little attention. You can water them once a week during the warm, sunny months, and about once a month during the fall and winter. Succulents need soil with a lot of drainage, so make sure they are planted in a space where the soil can dry out.
Step 4: Care for your plants.
Caring for plants primarily involves making sure they have enough water. Water your plants immediately after planting. While the plant is small, be sure that the soil stays moist. Once the plants have grown for several weeks, you can water them two or three times per week (if your plants are in pots, water them every few days). Watering plants is the easiest way for young children to assist in gardening. There are small watering cans made especially for children, and using a watering can instead of a hose can help young children aim the water at the soil that surrounds the base of the plant, and not drenching its fragile flowers and leaves! For school-aged children, watering plants can be a beneficial chore to add to their weekly duties. Caring for plants teaches children patience and responsibility.
Step 5: Harvest your food.
This is the most exciting step: harvesting your crops! Frequent harvesting actually encourages more growth to occur, so this step is good for both your children and your garden. Kids can help collect food and flowers every few days as long as the weather stays warm and consistent. Growing your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs can help encourage children to try new foods and to develop a greater sense of appreciation for their foods. Produce always tastes better fresh from the plant, and it can be a wonderful sensory experience for children to touch, smell, and taste new foods that they’ve grown in their yard.
Depending on what food you grow, plan meals or recipes to include the fresh foods from your garden. From salads, to salsa, to baked goods, to fruit salad, to smoothies, to desserts, there are many ways to utilize all that amazing fresh produce from your yard.
Gardening is a wonderful family activity to do during the spring and summer months. Even young toddlers can assist in pulling weeds or watering plants, and older children can focus on scheduling time to care for the plants and keep track of their garden’s health. Gardening teaches children how to be patient as they wait for their plants to grow, how to be responsible and care for nature, and develop a greater appreciation for the foods they consume. Start your family garden the next time your family has a free weekend!
Parenting is awesome. Sleep is overrated. Every day is an adventure.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.