With spring in full bloom, now is the perfect time to plant a vegetable garden.
By Caitlin Brown
With spring in full bloom, now is the perfect time to plant a vegetable garden. Starting one is easy, and it’s a wonderful way to spend time with your little ones outside, planning, planting, tending, and enjoying the rewards of your efforts together.
For landscape designer Katie Brown a vegetable garden was something she thought she’d put on hold until her first grandson was old enough to work alongside her. With Oliver, who just turned 3, she set out to build a raised bed in a sunny space, where their special garden would grow.
Oliver, like most children his age, has a fascination with all things, particularly big person tools. He loves to help out and mirror/mimic the grandmother he adores—his “Vaya” — whether it’s making pretend eggs in his play kitchen in grandma’s kitchen or opening the dishwasher and fridge for Vaya when she needs to put things away. He is a quick learner and a great little helper.
The garden was a brand-new opportunity for grandma and grandson to do some outdoors work together: getting out their tools — Vaya bought Oliver a brightly colored gardening tool kit with shovel, crocs, gardening gloves, and a watering can — to shovel up dirt and plant seeds in their special spot (Katie had a raised bed built).
Oliver was familiar with some of the things he was planting — carrots, tomatoes, pumpkins, green beans, yellow corn (Oliver’s favorite color and something he likes to eat), zucchini, and sunflowers. Wide-eyed, he listened intently as grandma explained to him how, with time and lots of revisiting (watering and maintaining), the seeds would grow “bigger,” eventually becoming flowers and vegetables they both could pick and even eat!
It was a magical experience for Oliver. Planting was a day of fun, as he not only got to play in the dirt but also learned about plants and their need for TLC to grow. Katie looks forward to growing the garden with him. It’s a way to spend quality time doing something she loves (gardening) and teaching a young, inquisitive mind about the world around him. It’s also a hope that this little adventure may create some excitement about someone eating his vegetables (healthy organic eating). The jury is out on that, but according to studies (many), children are more apt to eat what they grow and healthy eating habits are ones that stick. This is a great way to create them early!
Five Ideas for Your Child-Friendly Vegetable Garden:
You’ll need the usual tools: shovel, rakes, hoes, gardening gloves, and dirt-friendly shoes, but to get kids extra excited, get ones sized just for them. There are kid size gardening tools available all over the Internet: watering cans, little gardening gloves, crocs and hand tools. They love having supplies to work with that look like adult ones and it will garner excitement to dig in. Even a kid-friendly gardening book might help them to better understand the excitement about to unfold. Kids love books, especially ones with pictures. Choose a selection of books that focus on different types of veggies you may plant, the process of gardening and how they grow. Books can plant the seed of excitement for kids and give a better idea of what to expect from their special garden.
Once you’ve found a good sunny spot to plant, take a before photo so the kids have a reference point of what the area once looked like and how it looks later thanks, in part, to all their hard work. They’ll feel a real sense of accomplishment.
3-Pick your plants
Luckily, the seed-selling vendors at your neighborhood farmer’s market and gardening center will be able to offer advice on which vegetables will grow best in the local climate and the type of garden you’re creating. Allowing kids to pick seeds makes them feel more involved, plus it’s fun to choose ones they are familiar with or might even like eating. Larger seeds —pumpkin, beans, and sunflower for instance — are easier for them to plant. It’s also a great idea to plant seeds that harvest at different times and grow at different paces, so there is something there for them to look forward to as well as something to pick. Kids can be impatient waiting for seeds to grow, so it is a good idea to mix in some seedlings that have already begun to grow.
4-Take care of your garden
Teaching kids the importance of taking care of a garden instills in them the importance of putting in work to reap rewards. Giving kids special tasks —watching for and pulling out weeds, checking the soil if it needs to be watered, watering the plants, and checking for signs of buds — gets them involved and makes them responsible for the plants’ success. Kids can learn to watch for colors and learn about them as well — a yellow tomato, for instance, isn’t yet ready to pick, but when it turns red, it is.
Creating fun traditions in the garden, like who grows the biggest vegetable or best veggie of the year, increases the excitement, and gives parents and grandparents opportunities to take pictures of their growing gardeners.