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Gardens for Kids

Published by at 8:54 pm under Gardens & Projects for Kids

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.

17 responses so far

17 Responses to “Gardens for Kids”

  1. [...] grow vegetables, herbs and flowers for Beginner Gardeners … … Read the rest here: Gardens for Kids | The Micro Gardener ← ohsweetie: Seed Saving Squash [...]

  2. [...] to make sure you keep up to date with all new posts.  If you liked this, you might also enjoy Gardens for Kids, Thrifty Recycling Ideas for making your own garden tools for kids and showing children How to Grow [...]

  3. [...] Growing food gardens for kids; [...]

  4. [...] might also enjoy Gardens for Kids, Thrifty Recycling Ideas for making your own garden tools for kids and showing children How to Grow [...]

  5. [...] you liked this, you might also enjoy How to Harvest Herbs,  How to Grow Sprouts on your Benchtop, Gardens for Kids, and Get a Small Kitchen Garden [...]

  6. [...] might also enjoy How to Harvest Herbs,  How to Grow Sprouts on your Benchtop, Gardens for Kids, and Grow Your Own Herb Tea [...]

  7. narf77on 20 Feb 2012 at 3:25 pm

    I love this site! :o) I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to see you teaching kids about how great vegetables are. As a long term vegetarian I know how great these humble staples are and how amazing they are for you. I can’t believe it when people say that their children “Won’t eat veggies”…Won’t or haven’t been offered them in a way that appeals to the children? I wish we had a veggie doctor when I was at school…come to think of it…I wish we had a veggie garden when I was at school! Children are getting real quality exposure to vegetables and fruit and how to grow them thanks to people like Annie and government grants and the Stephanie Alexander foundation. I am constantly excited by how our children are getting the information about health that we never did. The fibs that we were told are now being eliminated and our children are emerging as not only more aware of these precious foods, but as gourmet producers and consumers of them as well. Cheers for this great post Annie…I know who I am voting for best Aussie blog of the year! :o)

  8. The Micro Gardeneron 20 Feb 2012 at 5:34 pm

    Thanks so much Fran for your lovely comments and insightful observations. I do feel incredibly passionate about the future of food for our children and worry about what young people think is ‘real food.’ Sadly our society is full of families inadvertently consuming convenient packaged “food”, full of genetically modified ingredients, processed, imported, long life, with colours, additives, fillers and preservatives with minimal nutrition and the associated food miles with long distance transport because of not buying local. It not only costs us more in the wallet, but also our health and the environment with unnecessary fuel, transport and packaging that ends up in landfill, etc.

    I somewhat reluctantly at first, stepped off that pathway a few years ago. Instead of spending time in the inner aisles of the supermarket chains consuming this stuff, I now choose to give our family nutrient rich foods we mainly grow for ourselves. Our health has improved and we have a greater appreciation for nature, REAL food and flavours. We are learning new ways to cook and store our fresh produce and it has been, and continues to be, a wonderful enriching journey.

    I love encouraging children, parents and teachers whenever I have the opportunity to start a veggie patch at home or school. I have the wonderful privilege of presenting workshops to help Garden Coordinators learn new skills in the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program (SAKGP) later this year that they can take back to their schools to implement. Can’t wait!

    When children take ownership of a pot or patch where they grow their own food, changes happen – I’ve seen it many times. They taste new flavours, learn new skills, have a greater appreciation for nature and are less likely to pollute or damage their environment as a result, there’s less stress in the classroom and they change their eating habits. I’ve seen firsthand a class of year 1’s asking their parents to make more salads at home after just 7 weeks of successful veggie growing at their school. Pester power to get parents to eat fresh healthy home grown food. How’s that for a positive change? I think it’s awesome!

  9. Kylieon 27 Feb 2012 at 10:09 am

    I run a garden club for an hour a week at our small local primary school. We have a small garden (approx 5m x 1m) and a couple of bathtubs so I’m always on the lookout for other ideas on where the kids can plant things. I’m finding so many ideas on your site it’s hard to know which one to start with! I love the idea of the styrofoam boxes and the painted pots and the plant label “stones”. When it comes to painting plastic pots, is there any particular paint or preparation needed to make the paint stick?
    Unfortunately, the school doesn’t have a kitchen so we are unable to take part in the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program, but after the kids have fun planting, growing and harvesting the produce we send it home with them so they can have it with a family meal. There are many fights over who gets to take the produce home so we must be doing something right! We also supply the school canteen with most of it’s required salad and vegetable ingredients.
    Hopefully we are making a difference, if only a small one, by giving the children the basic knowledge of growing their own produce. They find out that it can be fun and easy to grow things and that it tastes soooo much better than the stuff that comes from the supermarket.
    Thanks again for all the great information, my home garden and the school garden are both going to benefit from your great site.

  10. The Micro Gardeneron 27 Feb 2012 at 10:36 am

    Hi Kylie
    Thanks so much for the lovely feedback and so glad you’re finding some inspiration on the website. It’s wonderful to read how YOU are making a difference at home and your school – the students will remember these life and nature lessons and I’m a firm believer in sowing seeds while children are young so they take responsibility for their own choices regarding food and the environment.
    To answer your question re paint: My suggestion is to a) use a medium-coarse sandpaper to rough up the plastic pot surface to help the paint grip better. b) using a primer or first base coat which doesn’t have to be perfect. There are some useful photos and instructions for this kind of project on DIY Home Staging Tips (you could even use a similar concept with bright colours for the kids). More ideas at eHow.
    If you’re stuck for space and want to tie into the curriculum with other class topics during the year e.g. recycling or nature, perhaps you could consider a class project of bringing in an old shoe, boot or other container suitable for planting and make a recycled herb garden. The shoes would all look great grouped together and I know one school who did this and the kids loved it. They can always share their shoes around the class for those that don’t have one to use. Shallow rooted herbs and flowers like thyme, mint, lemon balm, oregano, nasturtiums (edible flowers), parsley, chocolate mint, calendula, chives, coriander, etc would all work well.
    Keep us all posted with the outcomes – there are many teachers and parents who are regular readers and love hearing what others are doing.

  11. Lisa Matthewson 22 May 2012 at 6:30 pm

    Hello,

    I have come across your wonderful picture of a veggie man on Facebook, via How to be a fun mum, and would love to pin it to my board, I also see you have some great pictures for re-pinning already!
    So I would like to ask permission to use and pin the picture to my food board, as I work with children, my boards are mostly to do with great ideas like yours and funny items for children, so I would love to include this picture, but will respect your decision if not.
    Thank you so much, I am in the UK by the way, and my Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/SmallprintGuildford

    Kindest Regards,

    Lisa Matthews

  12. The Micro Gardeneron 22 May 2012 at 8:22 pm

    Hi Lisa
    Thanks for touching base and happy for you to repin but would ask you to please credit the source of the image by linking to the page on my website or use the ‘Pin It’ button directly from my page. The kids I worked with who made Veggie Men that day had such a ball. It really allows the imagination to run wild. We had lots of containers of fresh veggies and fruit – whole and cut up – with toothpicks, and encouraged the children to get creative to make their own edible veggie man to take home. I love that Veggie Man with the “nose hair” – a cherry tomato with the stalk attached! The little boy who made it had a real giggle when he showed me. Cheers, Anne :)

  13. Rhiannonon 06 Mar 2013 at 2:18 am

    I love this website. I’m trying to teach my daughter that not everything comes from a store, that we can find better when we take the time to make it or grow it ourselves.

    We’re planting a garden together (and I’m going to make her own space for her to care for her garden on her own with just verbal guidance).

    I’ve started sewing and I’ve allowed my daughter to help pick out the patterns she wants so that the clothes are something she’ll enjoy wearing.

    I should also mention that my daughter is 3 1/2 years old. It’s never to early for kids to learn where their food comes from and what it takes to get the clothes they wear.

    She still doesn’t understand that the bacon we’ve been eating this winter came from one of the pigs on our friends farm that she chased around last summer. But we’ll get there. I wonder if I can ask one of my friends if they can teach her how to milk a cow so she understands where her milk comes from.

  14. The Micro Gardeneron 06 Mar 2013 at 7:40 am

    Hi Rhiannon – how inspiring to hear what you are doing with your little girl. A great example for others. I have lots more ideas I haven’t posted on my website of what you can do to engage children with the outdoors and their food on my Pinterest board. You might enjoy checking them all out there. If you’re not on Pinterest, just ask me for an invite. Here’s just a couple of ideas:
    How to Make a Rock Caterpillar – http://pinterest.com/pin/68820700527985096/
    DIY Veggie Garden Sensory Box – http://pinterest.com/pin/68820700526211198/

  15. Kevinon 22 Jul 2014 at 12:44 am

    What a wonderful page. Makes me wish I had kids to do this with. As a confirmed carnivore, vegetables never had a big place in my life. But as I grow older my tastes have evolved. One thing that helps is I have always loved to grow plant but until recently, the vegetables have always consisted of Jalapenos, lol. But this year I have added Squash, cucumbers, zuchini, tomatoes and five 5 varieties of peppers :). I would love to expand that but right now our wooden fence cuts off 1/2 my backyard area and butts up against the cement patio. I am hoping to build a raised garden soon, but probably not soon enough for veggies. I have built some containers to vertically grow some plants. I even attached a length of plastic gutter and am trying both peppers and strawberries in it. In our side yard I am growing grapes and blackberries but while the grapes are growing gangbusters the grapes, while sweet are small and have very thick skins. I think I need to cut off 1/2 of them as they develop and maybe the ones left will grow bigger? Also, the Blackberries are going crazy and I think I will have to extend thier area in order to grow enough to make Jam? I’m hoping to find some info that might help somewhere on this page. wow. No idea what point I was trying to make or how I got off topic so bad..lol

  16. Anne Gibsonon 23 Jul 2014 at 8:56 am

    Hi Kevin

    Thanks for sharing about your garden. Could I make a few suggestions?

    1. Why not use your wooden fence as a vertical garden structure? Perhaps you could add wall mounted brackets for hanging baskets or window box type planters. I have written many articles on this site on vertical gardening so check them out for lots of inspiration and DIY ideas.
    2. I am not sure what your “plastic gutter” is made out of, but most are PVC or vinyl which can leach toxic chemicals. As such, this material is not safe for organic food gardens. I would suggest removing your edible plants from there – peppers need much more depth anyway to produce healthy productive plants and would do better in a deeper pot.
    3. Blackberries need pruning and training along wire or a support structure so you could consider attaching some to your fence for this purpose and grow an edible green wall.

    As I have previously answered a question relating to the safety of gutter gardens, you may also like to read my response here. You might find this post on Safe Gardening of interest also.

    I hope this helps and let me know how you go!

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