Gardens help children connect with nature, their environment and most importantly, the source of their food.  Gardens are places for kids to learn new skills, build their confidence, have fun, learn to take care of plants and build respect for their environment as well as improve their health.

 

“In an age of instant gratification, a garden is one of the few places children can learn patience and delayed gratification by watching and waiting for rewards.” – Anne Gibson

One of my passions is showing children how to grow their own food and have fun gardening.

Prep year students planning out their new sensory garden

Having fun as the Veggie Doctor with Prep year students planning out their new sensory garden

I think of a garden as ‘nature’s classroom’ – a place to:

  • learn,  be still and observe
  • find an outlet for creativity

 

Simple activities like potting up seeds into cups and nurturing them as they germinate help build a love for nature

 

  • dig and get dirty
  • watch nature at work and play
  • learn respect for the earth
  • see the humour in life and explore new ways with fresh produce

 

A veggie man with nose hair

Children seem to find humour in simple things – like creating a veggie man with nose hair!

 

  • explore all the senses:  taste delicious flavours; touch different textured plants; smell wonderful aromas; listen to the sounds of nature’s symphony and feast with the eyes on the amazing palette of colours, shapes and ever changing delights

 

Children setting table with fresh produce

Students presenting food prepared from the school garden to share on harvest day

  • connect with the source of our food
  • and much more than I have space for here!

    Making veggie men is a way for children to learn about fresh food

    Making veggie men is a creative and fun way for children to learn about fresh food

 

With child obesity on the rise and more children brought up in cities, often missing out on the opportunity to connect with nature at a variety of levels, coupled with the stresses children live with in today’s world, I believe now more than ever it is important to share a love of the earth with our kids.  One of the simplest ways to do this is give them a small garden of their own.

I have seen first hand that children who are given the responsibility of growing a vegetable seedling will go to great lengths to take care for it.  They learn to nurture it and watch it grow, understand what it needs and have the joy of harvesting the reward at the end.

 

Raised veggie beds are great for kids

If you have the space, raised veggie beds are at the right height for kids

 

I have had the privilege of helping hundreds of children learn how to plant seedlings with Veggie Doctor workshops at local libraries and schools.  For the majority of children it has been the first time they have ever planted anything!

 

Planting seedlings is a rewarding step in gardening with kids

Kids love learning how to plant a seedling and take care of it.

 

They are so excited and proud of themselves – they learn how to pick up their ‘baby’ plant correctly, put it to ‘bed’ in a new pot and find out what the plant likes to ‘eat’ and ‘drink.’  Simple but powerful concepts that in many cases turns out to be the beginning of a life-long love of nature, the earth, fresh home grown produce and re-connecting with the source of their food.  Fresh food that doesn’t come in a packet, on a supermarket shelf or out of the freezer – but out of the earth in their own backyard!

“Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden.” – Robert Brault

Colourful veggie garden in a pot

Colourful veggie garden in a pot – looks too good to eat!

 

Getting A Garden Started with Kids

“The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies.” – Gertrude Jekyll

 

One of the most important keys to success with a child’s garden is letting them make it their own.  A reflection of what THEY love most.  It can be a tiny space – a single seedling in a pot, a container or a garden bed – but allow children to be creative in THEIR space.

 

Make it easy for children to succeed, take ownership and enjoy the process:

Age appropriate garden themes (even scaled down for a pot) help keep a child's interest in their own growing space.

Children love colour, fun and creativity and enjoy making a space outdoors their very own. Pick a simple garden theme like an Alphabet or Rainbow Garden that provide lots of options for learning.

  • If you only have a very small space, let them choose a container and get creative decorating their own pot.  Check out some creative container ideas and sensational shoe planters for a little more inspiration.

    Kids can make creative pots from beads, shells and odd bits

    Kids can make creative pots from beads, shells and odd bits – as simple or complex as they like

  • Let them pick their own colour theme if they want to. If a child is crazy about pink or another colour, use some non-toxic water soluble eco-paint (zero or low VOC) and jazz up a pot and accessories to coordinate or grow plants in a variety of shades of their favourite colour.

    This garden has a 'Think pink' theme

    This garden has a ‘Think pink’ theme but children love bright colours so let them design their own

  • Let them decide what they want to grow and eat.  Read on for a list of easy plants to grow first.

    Strawberries in a pot

    Strawberries in a pot are a popular choice for kids

  • Get them started with easy plants to grow.

    Upside down tomato planters are practical gardens for kids

    Upside down tomato planters are practical gardens for kids – they make very easy picking!

  • Give them their own child-sized garden tools – or show them how to make their own.

    Child sized garden tools are perfect for small hands

    Child sized mini garden tools are perfect for small hands and encourages them to take care of their own garden

  • Encourage them to make their own plant labels and garden signs.

    Potato sign made by children on corflute board

    Potato sign made by children on corflute board with contact & buttons – Art & English in one lesson!

  • Build excitement by ‘preparing the bed’ for their new ‘baby’ plants before going shopping for seeds or seedlings – then they can come home, give them something to ‘eat’ and ‘drink’ and ‘tuck them in.’

 

Click below for more great resources

Your support of this site is appreciated!

 

Tips for Micro Gardening with Kids:


  • Start with a pot or a small garden area and child sized garden tools.
  • Think about how much space you have – start small – your little green thumb can always grow more!
  • You may consider giving them a section of a raised garden bed in your own garden or start growing on a window sill.
  • Incorporate colour and creativity – let them paint, choose their own pot or make a sign to brighten up their special space.
  • Make it fun and rewarding!  Make food ‘faces’ and ‘veggie men’ from whatever your child likes to eat on their plate.  Even if they’ve started with sprouts, add this to the other food on their plate and encourage them to grow more ‘hair’ for another meal.   Kids LOVE eating what they’ve grown.

 

Now for a little inspiration to get you started – then check the ‘Easy Plants to Grow First’ list below.

 

Here are some Ideas for Kids’ Pots and Plots

Out with the new and in with the old in this case … visit my repurposed planters category – you’ll find plenty of inspiration for more clever plant container ideas and sensational shoe planters too.

 

Green Gumboots - recycle boots when kids grow out

Green Gumboots – recycle boots when kids grow out

If children are into art and craft, try funky handmade terracotta pots.

Handmade terracotta pots are great for kids' gardens

Handmade terracotta pots are great for kids’ gardens

There are many containers, toys and bits and pieces around the home, garage sales and recycle centres that can be turned into a creative low-cost garden bed.

Kids toys make great planters

Recycle old toys into fun colourful planters for kids

 

Just about anything goes …

Colander planter | The Micro Gardener

This old colander has been used as a planter for colourful flowers – it works well with such great drainage!

Let children be creative by adding some garden art as well …

Flower pot man garden art

This flower pot man doubles as both funky garden art and a fun planter

 

Choose Easy Plants to Grow First

 

Kids are impatient – especially young children!  So the faster a plant grows, the better!

Sprouts: I recommend children start with growing sprouts.  They are easy to grow, mature in a matter of days, are extremely nutritious and there are varieties suitable to sprout all year round.  Check out the article on How to Garden on your Benchtop – Grow Sprouts.

 

Sprouting seeds is an easy get started project for kids

Sprouting seeds is an easy get started project for kids

 

Seeds or Seedlings: The next choice is whether to plant seeds or seedlings.  Raising seeds is a fun and easy project and requires minimal effort and time.  I like to encourage using recycled materials like toilet roll pots and egg carton seed starters for children to reinforce the importance of taking care of the earth by re-using materials rather than having a ‘throw away’ mentality.

 

Plastic plant labels made from milk bottles

Children can make plastic plant labels from recycled milk bottles

 

Start with larger seeds like beans.  Check out the article on Frugal Gardening – 5 Thrifty Recycling Ideas for inspirational ideas and photos for making your own pots for free.

 

Plant starter pots can be as simple as using egg shells or egg cartons

Plant starter pots can be as simple as recycling egg shells or egg cartons

 

Seedlings are available at garden centres, nurseries, markets, produce stores and organic food stores.  I prefer whenever possible to purchase organic or heirloom seedlings – those grown from certified organic seed or heirloom seeds which are non-hybrid varieties that have been passed down in history and not usually used in modern agriculture.  They are usually adapted to grow locally but unfortunately, not many growers do this.  What is great though is that organic seedlings don’t cost any more to grow so you shouldn’t be paying more than conventionally grown seedlings.  In fact, they are often cheaper because organic growers don’t use expensive chemical fertilisers, fungicides and herbicides.

 

Seedlings can be grown from certified organic seed

Children can raise their own seedlings from certified organic seed

 

What is not commonly known is that commercial conventionally grown packeted seeds are treated with chemicals so consumers are not able to save seed from what they grow (as they will not grow ‘true-to-type’ or with the same characteristics of the original plant).  This is a greedy and unethical practice because it forces unsuspecting consumers to buy more seeds.  Many of these conventionally grown seeds have a ‘terminator gene’ which means the plant has been cultivated so it is not able to reproduce viable seed.  A horrific concept that is contrary to nature’s amazing capacity for abundant reproduction.  This is a BIG topic – one for another day!

Needless to say, that’s why I advocate buying organic or heirloom seeds – so you are only growing and eating what comes from nature – no added chemicals or hybridised plants!

 

Sourcing organic or heirloom seedlings:

 

Seedlings ready to plant

Healthy seedlings ready to plant out

 

So where do you buy seedlings?  Network with others in your area by visiting:

  • a local Community Garden – seedlings are often for sale at a low cost for members and visitors
  • Farmers Markets – ask the growers directly what kind of seeds they use or visit the organic produce stalls
  • Permaculture groups – Permaculturalists grow food organically and often share/sell seedlings at meetings and field tour days
  • Plant Nurseries and some Health Food Stores/Organic Food Co-ops
  • Local Gardening Groups like B.O.G.I. in Brisbane or Garden Clubs
  • Produce Stores – particularly in semi-rural and regional areas
  • Seed Savers groups (share/sell cuttings, seeds, seedlings and plant material)
Pumpkin seeds

Heirloom seed varieties and organic seeds are available from many sources

 

These are all ways to source organic seedlings and plant material.

Organic organisations can also put you in contact with where to source organic seeds and seedlings in your area.  As the Coordinator for Eudlo Seed Savers, I purchase, share or swap organic seeds as they are much better value for money and last a long time.  Joining a group is a great way to pick up growing tips too.  You can also source open-pollinated seeds from many reputable companies in Australia. Check out the list to find organic and heirloom seed suppliers.

There are also some excellent organic seed suppliers online.  Check out Frugal Gardening – How to Get Plants for Free for plenty of other ways to start your garden for nothing!

 

Easy to grow vegetables, herbs and flowers for Beginner Gardeners include:

 

  • Lettuces (these are ready to start harvesting outer leaves in non-hearting varieties in 3-4 weeks).

    Lettuce is a family favourite and there are a wide variety to choose from

    Pick and pluck lettuces are a favourite – here is a well signposted patch

  • Tomatoes (always a favourite, start with cherry tomato varieties).
  • Radishes (fast growing hardy salad veggie that are great fun for kids to grow).
  • Rocket (like its name, it grows extremely fast and is ready to harvest in 3-4 weeks).
  • Silverbeet (fast growing and can produce over a long period).
  • Rainbow Chard (an attractive colourful variety of spinach that is popular with kids).

    Rainbow chard comes in a variety of colours

    Rainbow chard is a tasty spinach that comes in bright colours like reds and oranges

  • Beans (dwarf varieties and climbers can be grown in a tepee or design a ‘Jack & the Bean Stalk’ garden themeentirely around this yummy veggie).

    Bean trellises and bamboo tepees are great fun to make

    Bean trellises and bamboo tepees are great fun to make & can be re-used many times

  • Beetroot (eat the tender new leaves in a salad from this easy to grow root crop)
  • Zucchini (whilst it takes up a bit more personal space, 1-2 plants will feed an average family)
  • Herbs like Mint, Basil (try Sweet Basil or Lemon Basil), Parsley and Lemon Balm – try growing a Herb Tea Garden.
  • Flowers like Sunflowers, Marigolds (Calendula is edible), Scented Geraniums (which have a huge variety of colours and scents) and Nasturtiums (all parts of the plant and flower are edible).

    Flowers in recycled tin brightly decorated flower pots

    Flowers in recycled tin brightly decorated flower pots

 

You can find out how to plant seedlings in the Garden in a Box for Kids project – a fun, cheap and colourful alternative to growing in a plant pot or garden.

 

Kids salad garden in a box | The Micro Gardener

Instant Garden in a Box – A fun and colourful project for kids of all ages!

 

Click below for more great resources

Your support of this site is appreciated!

 

Related articles: You might also enjoy Design Ideas and Themes for Kid’s Gardens, Inspirational Small Garden Ideas, Micro Gardening in Small Spaces, Gardens & Projects for Kids or come along to one of my Small Garden Workshops.

If you don’t want to miss future posts, subscribe to my newsletter at the top of the page (and grab your free eBook) or click on the RSS feed below or to the right.

 

© Copyright Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener 2010-2013 – http://www.themicrogardener.com. All rights reserved.