It’s important to spend quality time with your children, especially when they are just starting to develop their characters. A great activity that every parent should try, if they have the space for it, is to grow a small vegetable garden with their kids.
This is something that can include the whole family or just the two of you, it good nevertheless. Gardening, in general, has so many useful merits for grown-up people, let alone kids. So if you’re ready to harvest the fruit of this amazing project, read on!
We will go through all the benefits gardening can have for your children, how to start the project, how to maintain the garden, what to plant, and so much more! Grab your gardening gloves and let’s go.
Benefits of gardening with your kids
If you’re an avid gardener yourself, you probably know that this activity can sometimes be better than therapy. There is something fascinatingly peaceful in taking care of plants, the repeated movements, the connection with nature. If you’re a person who has a mentally exhausting job, gardening can provide that moment of tranquillity without the feeling of guilt that you’re not being productive.
Children, naturally, are still unburdened by these types of worries and mental tolls. But they can still develop quite the set of skills while enjoying this memorable experience with someone they love. Let’s take a quick look at the benefits of gardening for children:
- Responsibility – Plants are just as alive as animals and kids get to learn this through caring for their vegetable garden. They can see what will happen if the weeds are not cleared; if they are not watered on time. Keep in mind, that young kids might get upset if they see their veggies die, so make sure to explain things in a way they will understand. It’s okay to make mistakes if they learn from them.
- Patience – Kids are usually creatures that want to see immediate results. They water the peppers and expect that they grow in 5 minutes. Obviously, that’s not the case. They will learn to care for something and wait for it to show up when it’s ready. You can make the metaphor with life, as well. Oftentimes people need time to grow, they need to be watered with love and patience in order to become their best self, and that’s okay.
- Connection with nature – Seeing veggies in the supermarket is not an experience but seeing them grow and then harvesting everything is definitely one. Children will see how much goes into a single tomato or cucumber and look at nature in a whole different light. The process that makes a single seed become a big plant is truly fascinating.
- Appreciation for family activities – Spending time with family is extremely important but when you’re engaged in such a productive activity like gardening, the bonds created are even stronger. You’re not just running around, playing catch, you’re creating a life together. Put some music on, play games, take pictures. In a years time, this will be one of the most precious memories in your kids’ life.
- Being proud of their achievements – Even though you will be there to help, the majority of the work will be done by the children themselves. They will learn that with hard work and dedication a person can achieve great things. To enhance this feeling, you can make a wooden sign that says “Alex’s Garden”, for example.
How to start the kids’ vegetable garden
Well, just like any other project, you need a solid plan in order for everything to turn out how it’s supposed to. It might be tempting to do it by yourself since it will surely be a lot faster, but the idea here is to leave the majority of work to your children. Involve them as much as you can in the process and encourage them to make decisions. This will make them fully dedicated to their green space.
So, here are the steps we suggest you take to create a beautiful child-friendly garden.
Choose the best location
If you already have a vegetable garden, you can place your kids’ close to it. If you’re also just starting your first vegetable adventure, we advise you to start small. Choose a sunny area that is easy to reach and preferably has a water source nearby. If you make it too wide, it will be hard to maintain and you might spread yourself too thin. If you have a fence and there is a way to put the vegetable patch right below it, it would be the perfect place because you can decorate to your heart’s content.
Make a garden model or a drawing
It’s important to visualise and it’s also quite fun. Truth is that your vegetable garden can be any shape you want. Let your imagination flow and create a drawing or a model of the future creation with your children. The shape itself can be done with old bricks, roof tiles, whatever you can find. Make a heart garden or one shaped like the sun – the possibilities are endless! If you decided to go with a drawing, you can even hang it somewhere in your house for motivation.
Choose the vegetables you want to plant
This step is just as important as the location of your garden, and there are a few crucial factors you need to keep in mind. Let’s see what they are:
- Your geographical location – Different plants grow well in different places. Choose vegetables that are either native to your home area or are at least adapted to the climate. Growing veggies that don’t really belong to this place would be twice as hard and could be quite discouraging to the young ones.
- Growth time – We mentioned that gardening teaches patience but it’s still not a miracle worker. Your children would want to enjoy the fruits of their labour, or should we say veggies, as soon as possible. So to make this easier, both for you and your kids, just choose vegetables that give produce relatively fast.
- Amount of produce – If your kids have to care for the specific vegetable, wait for it to grow, spend time giving it the best life possible and then only receive a single pepper, for example, they would probably throw it in your face and never look at a shovel again. Make sure the reward is substantial and choose high-yielding vegetables that will give good produce, like tomatoes and beans.
- Taste – It’s logical but we will still mention this. Don’t grow vegetables your kids don’t like eating. If carrots are your child’s arch-nemesis, it doesn’t make any sense that they would want to take care of it. So if you don’t want to wake up to your kid setting the garden on fire in the middle of the night, plant the veggies they love.
According to their season
Australian seasons are a bit different so it’s important to keep them in mind when choosing the vegetables. To make things easier, we will list a few for each season so that you can have the best possible start.
- Spring – Tomatoes, Basil, Carrots, Lettuce, Cabbage, Coriander
- Summer – Cucumber, Radishes, Celery, Parsley
- Autumn – Cauliflower, Broccoli, Onion, Beans, Zucchini
- Winter – Potatoes, Spinach, Peas, Turnip
Make sure that you have the right soil conditions – it needs to be rich in nutrients and have the right levels of acidity, depending on the vegetables you’re planting. We recommend that you further enrich the soil in order to provide the best possible conditions for your kids’ vegetable garden.
- You can go with a chemical fertilizer from a store or compost. Since you’re working with kids, we recommend that you go for organic compost.
- Do proper research to see how much you have to use – too much of it might harm the seeds/ seedlings.
- When it comes to planting, thankfully, the plants have instructions at the back and you can see what are the optimal conditions you can offer them.
- Some you have to start from pots inside your house and transfer them when they grow up.
- To make things even more fun for your kid, write the steps on a piece of paper with illustrations.
- Remember to plant directly into the soil, no matter if you’re using seedlings or seeds. Spread the compost around and don’t cover the seeds with it.
- No matter the shape of your veggie patch, plant them in rows, leaving enough space for watering and weeding.
- The seeds need to be around 1 -2 cm deep into the ground, covered with soil and watered right away. The same procedure can be applied to the seedlings.
- After that, just follow the irrigation schedule specified by the manufacturer.
Decorate the area
Here the options are truly endless and it will probably be your kids’ favourite part of the whole thing. As we mentioned earlier, you can create a little sign with their name, paint the fence behind the garden, if there is one. You can also separate the different vegetables with coloured pebbles and draw name cards that you can put in front, to remember where everything is.
With decorating you can calmly let your kid take the lead, it’s their garden, after all.
We definitely recommend that you start planting in spring, since it’s the ideal time weather-wise and for the plants, as well.
In most cases, spring is the best time to start something new like gardening with the kids to produce your very own vegetables. So, do not hesitate to give it a try, as this will certainly be an experience you and the family will not forget. More about what and how to plant in spring in the different parts of Australia you can learn from our Fantastic Spring Planting Guide.