Looking for a way to get your kids into the great outdoors? Here are some tips to get them gardening their very own veggie patch.
From picking your garden location and theme, to sowing the seeds, soil preparation, maintenance and harvest – gardening provides a wonderful opportunity for children to learn about Mother Nature. It’s a great way to foster a sense of responsibility, a respect for plants and little creatures, and hopefully an interest in eating more vegetables and cooking with them too!
Making a children’s vegetable garden is easy, and you don’t even need a lot of space or money. Here are some easy steps to help get your kids gardening.
Find the perfect spot
If you have a large backyard, you’ll need a spot that gets plenty of sunlight but also pick somewhere that you’ll be able to easily supervise at a distance.
Now decide what you’re going to plant your garden in. You could allocate a square of your existing garden, use a large sandbox or crate filled with soil, or stick to planters and pots. It's best to physically section off the area with a small barrier or border to help as a guide for planting and to keep little feet from trampling the ground.
If you have limited outdoor space or a small garden, don’t let this stop you; repurpose old tires, a wheelbarrow, a wooden crate, a small sandbox or a few large pots - any container with good drainage will do. If you have a balcony, consider a vertical garden at a height they can reach.
Whatever you choose, make sure the garden gets plenty of sunlight, quality soil and consider exposure to the elements, as this will all influence what type of plants you choose.
Consider a theme
To go the extra mile, you could encourage your kids to get into the garden with a fun theme that inspires the imagination. Will it be a fairy garden filled with brightly coloured blooms? Or a miniature dinosaur forest? Perhaps it’s a native wildlife haven with a water feature and plants that will attract butterflies.
Personalise the space and make it a magical haven. Think wind chimes, gnome and fairy statues, painted rocks, or an insect hotel to encourage wildlife. Children will love the opportunity to decorate the space, plus it will keep them busy with craft activities.
When choosing your veggies, go for a variety that are easy to grow, such as zucchini, carrots and tomatoes, beans and strawberries. Keep in mind, if you're going for root vegetables, you'll need a bit more space for your garden.
Plants that germinate quickly, like tomatoes, lettuce and radishes, and continue to crop will appease short attention spans and keep the kids interested. They'll love a visit to your local plant nursery to pick the plants, and it’s a good opportunity to ask questions if you’re unsure of anything!
Allow them to get involved with soil preparation - planting the first few seeds or seedlings will give them ownership. After that, encourage them to regularly be involved in maintenance, such as weeding, watering, pruning, and pest management such as spotting bugs and slugs. Teach them how to watch for wilting leaves that show the plant needs water and how to care for plants with different needs. If you're not yourself a green thumb, there's no better time to learn - you only need to stay one step ahead of your curious students.
And now for the fun bit - harvesting
Getting the kids involved in growing and picking their own fruit and veg is the best way to get them to eat the harvest! This will be the fun part for everyone, as the little ones can enjoy the literal fruits of their labour.
If there’s abundance, encourage them to share with friends. With luck, you’ll have built the foundation for a life love of gardening and the outdoors.