Ready For Spring: Garden Planning with Kids
Here in Central California, we have an early grow season and the perfect time to set your summer seeds indoors, or in a greenhouse is January and February. Knowing how desperately my children wanted their own garden beds to tend to this past summer, I made a real effort to include them in the planning process.
Here are some simple steps to creating a fun garden planning afternoon with your children.
1) Gather your resources.
In our house we have an ever growing pile of gardening books, as well as piles of seed/nursery catalogs. I found most of them at Library sales or online at Amazon (buy used for pennies and just pay for shipping). Most seed and nursery companies will send you a free catalog if you subscribe to them online.
I had the kids sit and go through the books at their own pace over the course of our morning. I loved seeing them sit side by side and point to the beautiful photographs and critique the delicately illustrated garden plans. I realized my children were as intrigued by flowers as they were by edibles. It made me realize I needed to plan a few more flower beds this spring.
2) Seed Shopping
Because of my penchant to seed hoard, I let the kids go through some of our seeds and choose four vegetables for their raised beds. I then let them choose two companion flowers to plant alongside the veggies. It was interesting to see which seeds were chosen by which child. My daughter essentially wanted to know which plants made salsa and chose from there. My son chose his favorite vegetable – lettuce. And after that, it was just a matter picking a few plants that would complement his favorite tomato sauce.
If you don’t already have a stash of seeds, this can be such a fun opportunity to go to your local garden center or nursery and seed shop. Or you can do my favorite thing, and sit together and shop online. Go here for a wonderful list of seed companies. We use Rare Seeds and LOVE all of their seeds and they have a very high germination rate.
And while we’re talking about trolling online and garden geekery, go to my gardening page on Pinterest. My children love to just sit and scroll and exclaim and plan their fantasy gardens. And if you really want to my your child’s day, go to Pinterest and search “fairy doors.”
3) Plan it out.
In that children are impetuous and impatient, I like to make them sit and really plan out any activity they are going to do. This year I created a form to let them draw out how and what they wanted to plant in their individual raised beds.
I was amused to see how dedicated they were to their plans. My son planned to have a circle of marigolds protecting his vegetable plants in the middle, while my daughter was much more invested in all the pretty flowers sprinkled amongst her veggies.
The reason we let the kids have their own beds is that they want ownership in the endeavor of gardening. Sure, they love picking tomatoes and peppers with me in the summer, but this year they’ve consistently repeated that they want to pick THEIR own tomatoes and peppers. And I am willing to make the effort in order for them to realize that this garden with live or die based on their efforts and their efforts alone.
4) Garden Markers; a fun little project.
Because surface sowing boring old seeds in our milk jug greenhouses a couple of months before we start the garden can be a bit anti-climatic, I planned to have the kids make their very own garden markers for the four veggies they chose to grow. I used what was on hand, markers, wedges and a few paint sticks and simply told. Go here for a DIY garden marker inspiration. There is a lot of potential for creative interpretation here and I would love to see what all of these amazing Playful Learning parents could come up with.
While the years, the obligations and the general chaos of adulthood can seem to dull our senses and distract us, children are still fresh and open and drawn to nature. They don’t see a beautiful sunset and sigh and talk about the beauty – they smile, their eyes flutter and they FEEL the beauty. They feel this way about everything in nature, from ladybug to swiss chard. Children also like to get dirty, really dirty. Even the most hesitant child will eventually break through the fear of the unknown and relish the feel of the loose soil on their hands as they place their plants in the carefully dug holes. Gardens grow food and beauty – and children love everything about them. So, go and grow a pot of flowers together. Grow a garden bed, plant an apple tree, grow a pot of flowers together, or go to a u-pick berry farm this summer…let your child participate in the miracle of growth.