Garden with kids. Learn about easy plants for children to grow and easy garden techniques.
Gardening teaches children about life, responsibility and how to provide for self. You’ve likely heard the saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, but teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” I would like to twist that saying a bit and say, “Give a child a vegetable and you feed him for a meal. Teach him to garden and you feed him for a lifetime.”
The cycle of the plant as it grows from a seed to a plant, is one that every child should learn. There is a reason why schools have children grow plants from seeds, it shows them the plant cycle. The child will also learn what it takes to make a plant grow – water, sunlight, care.
Growing a plant from a seed, planting it in the ground, remembering to water it and harvesting it takes a commitment. Your child will learn responsibility. If he forgets to water the plant, the plant will wither. If he doesn’t harvest, the fruit will wither on the vine.
The cost of food is rising year-by-year. One day, knowing how to grow his own crops may mean the difference between survival and starvation. Hopefully, life will be easier than that for the next generation, but there is no guarantee. Learning to garden is a vital skill that everyone should have working knowledge of.
Mary Jones was a young teen during the Great Depression. She shared the importance of gardening and teaching these skills to your children. “During the depression, there were times when all us kids had to eat was what we’d grown in the garden the summer before and put up for the winter.”
The easiest garden for very young children is a container garden. Simply purchase a large plastic planter from any garden supply center or use a 5-gallon bucket. Fill with rich gardening soil. Plant the seeds or seedlings and watch it grow.
- Take your child with you when you purchase the container. The child should be able to easily reach the middle of the pot without having to strain. This will allow him to plant, water and harvest without difficulty.
- Invest in high quality potting soil. This is a good time to decide if you want to have an organic garden. I personally think organic is best. There are many easy ways to deal with pests and other garden problems in a container setting, but that is an entirely new article.
- Choose three to five plants (more on easy to care for plants in a minute). Do not overcrowd the container as the plants will grow larger with time. Also, your child will learn more about each type of plant if you limit the variety.
- Choose only plants your child likes to eat. It isn’t much fun to spend all that time growing a tomato, if you hate tomatoes.
- Plant the tallest plant in the center and shorter plants around the edges.
Easy Plants for Kids
- Pole beans (place a pole in the center and allow them to climb) – you may need to tie them up with soft fabric strips as the plant grows. Try strips of old nylon stockings.
- Corn (just a couple of stalks in the center)
Seed companies now offer miniature versions of plants. These are specifically for container gardening. The fruit or vegetable is smaller, but so is the overall size of the plant.
Create a Chart
We were always big on charts in our house. Create a chart that reminds your child to water the plants every few days and check on them at least once a week. This is a great way to teach your child responsibility.
The best charts allow a child to check off items as they are completed, place a sticker to show that job is done or have magnets that can be moved around. Although it is tempting to do the work for your child if he forgets, this really doesn’t teach him the life skills he needs to garden for life.
Keep it Simple
Keep this first garden simple. A lot of parents make the mistake of tilling up a huge section of soil and trying to create an enormous garden that will feed the whole neighborhood. Creating a small garden is a better place to start. You can always add containers next year, a raised bed or even a small plot of land.