Guide to Gardening with Children
Children often enjoy playing and digging in the dirt, so gardening can be a natural extension of these activities. Gardening with children can provide an enjoyable opportunity for spending time and working together to grow vegetables, flowers, and other ornamental plants and trees. As a gardening team, you and your children can also get physical exercise while working in the soil. Explore the different ways children can assist with gardening projects to include them in these beneficial pursuits.
Planting a flower garden can provide children with an opportunity to add beauty to a landscape. A flower garden project can involve learning about different flower varieties and planning a flower garden to suit a specific growing area. Teaching children about native plants can be especially rewarding because youngsters can learn about flowers that are suited especially for your growing location due to needs such as moisture and sunlight.
Explore catalogs and books with information about flowers with children, and choose flowers you wish to plant. The next step involves planning the garden to determine placement of each plant. From here, it's time to cultivate the soil and prepare it for planting seeds or seedlings. Discuss each step with the children so they learn both how and why you perform every task. Once you finish planting the flowers, maintain the growing area with the children to provide water and fertilizer and to remove weeds.
Planting and growing vegetables can not only teach children valuable lessons about growing plants, but it also shows them where food comes from and how to become self-sufficient in this area. The types of vegetables you choose to grow in your vegetable garden depend on your geographic location and your personal tastes. Spend time exploring gardening books with your children to choose the types of vegetables you wish to grow. Once you know what you want to plant, plot out the garden to include rows of each type of vegetable. Get children actively involved in purchasing seeds or seedlings by visiting a gardening center together.
Everyone can participate in the work of preparing the soil and planting the vegetables. Teach children how to cultivate the soil to break it up. Add soil enhancer such as compost or manure, and work this into the soil well. Make the rows together, and plant the seeds and seedlings as a team. Once you finish planting, teach children about the ongoing tasks of maintaining the vegetable garden. Kids will probably enjoy watering and weeding to keep the garden neat and healthy. As the vegetable plants grow and begin producing vegetables, engage the children in harvesting so they can complete the full cycle of vegetable gardening.
Many insects are beneficial to flower and vegetable gardens. Some beetles, such as ladybugs and ground beetles, are predators, hunting harmful aphids in a garden. Other insects, such as bees and butterflies, are important due to the pollination activities they perform. Teach children about how to attract these beneficial insects to growing areas. For example, to attract ladybugs, include plants such as marigolds, prairie sunflowers, and Queen Anne's lace in a growing area. To attract butterflies, include plants with vibrant colors and scents such as azalea, spicebush, milkweed, and wisteria.
Kids often enjoy using gardening tools as they work in the soil. While this can be a valuable learning opportunity, it's important to supervise children carefully while they use gardening tools to ensure safety. Teach your children which gardening tools they can use for garden work and which tools they should leave for you to use. For example, children can likely use a hand-held garden trowel to dig in the soil. However, sharp gardening shears or a full-size pitchfork should be tools only for adult use. Explain the potential dangers of other gardening materials to children, such as chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and ensure that children never touch these materials.
Written by Ava Rose