Here's a lengthy and detailed guide on gardening for kids explaining why it's so good, proper gardening tools for kids, how to go about it, planning, types of gardens for kids and suggestions for keeping them motivated to care for their garden creation.
I am clocking my 35th birthday but always feel terrible about myself for not honing my gardening skills at a young age. I always feel judged when my friends talk about gardening with their kids. I have learnt that I need to introduce my kids to gardening so that they can live to enjoy the delicious rewards for the effort and time gardening offers. Here’s the ultimate guide to kids gardening that has changed things for me.
1. Why is Gardening With Kids Important?
Gardening is a fantastic activity for anyone. While most adults find food, relaxation, and peace, children take a lot more from this activity. Besides, if you want a hobby you could share with your kids, this is what to teach them. Here are some reasons why you’ll want to begin gardening with your kids:
1.1 Bond Building
Gardening with your kids provides a great opportunity to build and strengthen your relationship. Joining hands to create one of the many types of gardens will bring you together on all levels. Even when you’re getting into gardening for the first time, learning to conduct activities with your kids will create a strong bond. This way, you could also show your kids how to navigate the learning process.
You will also spend hours together which will undoubtedly strengthen the bond between you and your kid. Gardening could be time-consuming, particularly when beginning, and it will give more reasons to spend quality time with your kids. But, if you’re an experienced gardener who wants to mentor a kid, gardening helps pass knowledge to the next generation.
1.2 Creativity and Imagination
There’s a lot that your kid could gain from spending quality time in the garden. Kids often see gardening as something more than just a means to a happy ending. Through gardening, a kid becomes a grower of things, a great plant parent, a responsibility holder, and much more. Gardening, for kids, is just as empowering as pretending to fight off dragons to save their princess.
Rather than imaginations about their mortal foe, children could save their plants from the dangers of earthly plant-eating pests. This is a real-life battle that could leave them feeling heroine when their garden remains healthy and safe all through summer.
A child’s creativity and imagination takes hold when they are given the chance to create. However, what’s compelling about the creativity and imagination in gardening is the ability to see the creativity come to life.
We all want to raise our kids so that later on in life, they can survive and prosper independently. The easiest way to prepare kids for the future is to teach them how important responsibility is. The last thing you want is a kid who misses payments, shows up late for interviews, wrecks relationships, or forgets to feed their pet because they do not feel responsible for these actions. Gardening easily creates the responsibility mindset.
Through gardening, kids learn to be responsible otherwise their garden won’t survive. There are numerous responsibilities that gardeners must take on which translate to the real world. The idea of waking up every day to water crops, taking time to remove weeds, and harvesting on time. There are many opportunities for a kid to learn the true definition of responsibility.
Besides taking up different roles when gardening, kids also get some education from the same. There are numerous educational opportunities in all aspects of gardening with kids that you’ll never run out of the opportunity to help them develop. From budgeting and financial planning when buying gardening supplies to teaching them how much room each plant needs to grow, the learning possibilities are just endless. And if that isn’t motivation enough, their science class with probably motivate you to start gardening with them.
A study by the Michigan State University has provided evidence that gardening for kids helps with problem-solving, situational analysis, intellectual development, and more.
Now that you’re conversant about the importance of gardening with kids, here are a few ideas you could consider along the way.
2. Setting a Budget
Shopping for garden supplies presents a fantastic educational opportunity from which your kids can learn. By creating a budget, you can teach your kid how to go about managing a specific amount of money. However, this educational opportunity will only work if you stick to the budget. Taking your kid on a shopping spree without a cash limit they shouldn’t exceed won’t teach them anything amount managing a budget.
As tempting as it could be to go beyond a set budget, bear in mind that teaching your kid to be smart with their money will be a good stepping stone for financial success in the future. If you want to make it easier for your kids to shop on a budget, spend some time creating a shopping list and discussing the reason and need for each item. This will be more of a learning experience than just creating a shopping list.
If you already own some supplies on your list, you could teach a kid that they do not need anything brand new to replace what’s already available. By compiling a list and discussing supplies, you’ll teach your kids to prioritize necessities over desires.
3. Gardening Tools for Kids
There are numerous kids gardening tools and supplies your kids could use to learn this important life skill. As a result, the gardening tool industry is now producing more products suited for use by kids. The availability of smaller gardening tools that are appropriately designed for children has made it easier for parents to introduce kids to gardening.
Here are some basic gardening tools you will need before getting your kid to work on the garden:
Although they are mainly used to keep hands from getting dirty when working on the garden, gloves also protect kids from getting a thorn or splinter while they work. Be sure to get the right sized glove since it will enhance comfort as they work.
A trowel is basically a handheld shovel. This little tool works wonders when you want to dig small holes or fight off some pesky weeds. Besides, it is fantastic for taking care of miniature jobs that do not need a full-sized shovel.
3.3 Hand Rake
Similar to a trowel, a hand rake is the smaller version of a rake and it lets you loosen soil for easier digging of holes in addition to giving freshly planted seeds room to breathe. Full-sized rakes are also difficult for kids to use, so hand rakes are a great alternative.
If you are starting a new garden, you will probably need to transport soil and compost in and out of the garden. With a good wheelbarrow, you can easily transport everything you need for a flourishing garden.
3.5 Hose and Nozzle
Plants require water to grow and survive, and a good hose would be a worthy investment. Besides, a nozzle would be a great addition since it helps regulate the water pressure on your plants. If you’re on a budget, however, you could consider other ways to water your plants.
Shears are an important tool only after your plants are fully grown and require maintenance. Unfortunately, there are safety hazards associated with letting your kids use them so be sure to guide your kids on how to use them for safety. You could also check out the different types of gardening shears to choose from.
Gardening with kids means that you must invest in a set of tools that are appropriate for them. Although it would be easier to find tools that work well for you and your kids, choosing what you actually need could be more challenging.
4. The Type of Garden
Choosing how to set up your garden is a smart way to start gardening with kids. But, if you have an established garden, consider working with what’s already available. If you do not have an established garden, the two popular styles to choose from are an in-ground garden or raised garden. Both are fantastic for kids who are just getting started with gardening.
4.1 Raised Garden
Also referred to as container gardens, these are essentially off the ground. Although quite costly, these garden styles have become popular because of their numerous benefits. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of raised gardens.
- Off the ground so there’s less strain on your body as you work.
- Better drainage hence suitable if your regions has higher precipitation
- They are easier to keep warm during the cold months because you could place them anywhere
- Raised gardens could be costly
- Challenging and almost impossible to work with machinery
4.2 In-Ground Garden
These are basically gardens planted on the ground and less preparation is required because there’s no need for specialized building. This is the most popular option for many and here are its advantages and disadvantages.
- Hold water longer hence better suited for drier climates
- Cheaper to start working since you won’t have to build anything to get started
- There are no space limitations
- Strenuous to work on because you will have to bend most of the time
- Could be expensive to maintain if you need additional machinery.
Choosing the gardening style could also be another educational opportunity when your kids need to learn about gardening. Be sure to talk about the advantages and disadvantages of each so that your kids can pick a suitable choice.
4.3 Vegetable garden
Vegetables are a fun way to teach kids about gardening, nutrition and food sources. In fact, kids get a kick out of growing stuff they can eat.
- Learn about food sources and nutrition
- Plenty of options to choose from – can be extensive or tiny.
- Concrete learning – get to eat what they grow.
- Can be more technical and a possible big let-down if the garden doesn’t produce the intended produce.
4.4 Flower garden
Kids love flowers. In fact, it’s neat to see how much in awe they are with flowers.
You can easily dedicate a small plot of your garden or create a designated raised planter for your kids to plant and grow their own flowers.
It can be fun to head to the nursery and let them pick out the seeds so they get a say in the design and layout.
Chances are kids aren’t going to want to be responsible for a large garden. But something small and simple is something they can handle which is why making a terrarium or creating planter gardens is a great way to introduce kids to gardening.
4.6 Fairy garden
Kids love fairy gardens which are a combination of toys and vegetation. The sky is the limit for creativity and creating magical spaces. They’re fun because you can add to them year-after-year creating a magical space in the yard. They can be prominently displayed or “secret”. You can put them in planters or a regular garden or in and around tree trunks/stumps.
5. The Type of Soil
Knowing the different types of soil is an essential aspect of gardening with your kids. Some soils are rougher than others and need supplementing with soil from a separate area or purchased soil. Take a handful of soil and if it feels hard, dense with clay or feels extremely dry, then it might not be well suited for growing crops. However, poor soils could be easily fixed with effort, time, and some organic matter. Ideally, gardeners want their soil to be practically black and hold just enough moisture. You will obviously feel the difference when you press healthy soil onto your hands.
Giving the soil what it requires to stay healthy makes gardening easier for you and your kids. Healthy soil is a crucial aspect of cultivating a healthy and prosperous garden. If the soil is in good shape, you won’t require as much pesticide or fertilizer because your garden will naturally get what it requires. Healthy soils result in healthy plants which are typically healthier for your family. So, how can you tell whether your soil is healthy? And if it is not healthy, how can you fix the problem?
There are more than 17 crucial soil nutrients or elements that are essential for productive plant growth, but there are a few that are more important. Nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium are the three primary nutrients that have a huge impact on your garden success.
If you’re looking for a good fertilizer, look for one labelled “complete fertilizer” since they have the three main nutrients. However, they might not contain all the nutrients you want to have on your garden. For healthy gardening soil, you also need a fertilizer with secondary nutrients as well. Some of the secondary elements to look for include magnesium, calcium, sulfur, boron, copper, and zinc.
Although you could add fertilizer to the soil to ascertain that these nutrients are present, it might not always be necessary. Sometimes the soil doesn’t need specific additives to remain healthy since it already contains some elements. You do not want to spend so much on soil additives that you don’t need. The easiest way to determine what nutrients your soil needs is through testing, and this creates a good learning opportunity for your kids. You could test soil by yourself or take samples and send them off to a laboratory.
Soil tests measure pH levels as well as the composition of other nutrients like potassium, nitrogen, magnesium, and phosphorus. Once your results are back, you can easily establish what elements are missing and add them accordingly.
6. Watering and Sunshine
How will you tell that your garden is having enough of water and sunlight? Some plants will need more water and sun than others. This information is often available on the seed packets in order to help you choose the best place to plant as well as how much water is needed. Watering plants properly creates a healthy soil base and saves you a lot of water in the long run. Healthy soil has a higher water retention capacity when compared to poor soil, so you won’t have to water frequently.
If your soil’s water retention capacity is poor, you need to test it and add the required elements or put more compost humus. But, if your healthy soil doesn’t seem to hold water, you might just need to aerate it to create air pockets that hold water more evenly. For water tolerant or moisture loving crops, you have to water frequently without worrying about overwatering. On the flip side, drought plants do not require as much water and, as a result, will require less watering work. The key is understanding your plants when you begin watering them. You could use a watering chart to better understand when and how you should water your plants.
Similarly, the amount of sunlight a plant needs depends on its species. Once you read through the seed packet instructions with your kid, you can easily determine where to plant your crops. You could use a sunlight meter to determine the amount of sunlight hitting different parts of your garden to easily determine where you need to plant.
This is arguably the most exciting aspect of gardening for kids. Seeing the fruits of their labor is an exhilarating accomplishment.
How do you know it’s time to harvest?
For above-ground veggies, it is easier to establish when harvesting should be done. The coloration will most likely be vibrant and the look will be fuller. Crops ready for harvesting will naturally fall off when grabbed. With in-ground vegetables, you’ll need to judge by the visible parts. Besides, the seed packets should give this information and a picture.
It is usually great fun for you and the kids to walk around the garden harvesting what you planted together. You can then prolong the light moments by preparing a delicacy and eat your healthy harvest.
Although many people view gardening as an activity for grownups, it is important to teach it to your kids early enough since it is one of the best activities to do with your kid. You’ll have the opportunity to educate them, assign responsibilities, facilitate their development, prepare them for the world ahead, and turn them into all-rounded persons. And you will not just enjoy bonding time with the kids but your family will also reap the rewards of a prosperous garden.
And when it comes to gardening, there are numerous ways to get your kids involved from the budgeting stage to harvesting and everything else in between. In the long run, you will love what you gain from gardening with your kids.