Gardening is something many coloradans enjoy and it’s an activity that the whole family can enjoy. Getting them started early is a fun way to let them play in the dirt while they also learn about different plants. As you teach children about yard work, be sure to teach them to always call 811 during any digging project!
Little Green Thumbs
When it comes to gardening, kids can’t wait to dig in. Here are some ideas to help them get growing.
Children gravitate to gardening for some very basic reasons: Dirt. Water. Hole-digging. To which I’d add, from my experience with two boys: Food. And bugs. (Not that they should ever be confused.) And they like the flowers.
Sure, kids love to see seeds sprout, then leaf out and eventually bear flowers or tempting berries or tiny tomatoes. But that takes time—and ten minutes can seem an eternity to little people with short attention spans. So if you want your kids to get excited about the plant part of gardening, look for projects with an easy payoff.
Aim for Fast Gratification
If you’re going to start seeds indoors, you can create a perfect starter nursery using the bottom of a cardboard egg container (and teach a useful lesson about recycling while you’re at it) and a starter soil mix. Or use peat pots—the compressed ones that expand with water like those magic sponges are a fun bonus.
Go for plants that germinate quickly, like radishes, even if you don’t like them—they come up in three or four days. If you get started in early spring, you’ll have to acclimate the seedlings to the outdoors for a few hours a day before you plant them; just cut the egg carton containers apart to separate the plants. Like the peat pots, the little cardboard forms can go right in the ground, where they will decompose as the plants grow.
If seeds are too slow, buy small nursery plants to give your garden a head start. Some easy-to-grow flowers include marigolds, nasturtium, ageratum, marigolds, bachelor’s buttons, cosmos, alyssum and zinnias. Equally easy vegetables include zucchini, peas, cucumber, carrots, and tomatoes.
If you have space to spare, consider giving your kids their own garden plot, so you can keep yours intact. If space is an issue, plant in containers; most plants will do equally well in pots.
Plant for All the Senses
Grow your own tasty vegetable soup in a patch with tomatoes, beans, carrots, squash—they say kids are more likely to eat what they grow and cook. It might encourage them to try new foods (it hasn’t worked in my veggie-averse house, but I live in hope). For fun, mix some rocks and pebbles into a container of soil and plant some full-size carrots. When they encounter these obstacles, the carrots will branch out into crazy shapes—great fun to unearth!
Create a pizza garden, with plum tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, rosemary, oregano, basil, onions and garlic. You can even plant them in a round plot, divided into triangular “slices”.
Make room for some “fairy berries.” These tiny alpine strawberries do well in pots and borders. Watch for white flowers that are followed by tiny tart fruits that little hands love to gather.
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