Gardening is a great way to spend time with your children, especially in the summer. It’s a chance to spend some quality time together outside while getting some fresh air.
Now, your outside space might be your sanctuary of solitude, and your much needed zen garden of peace, quiet and tranquillity. And while we all need a bit of alone time, any occasion your child wants to help should not be ignored.
And if your kids have never been interested in getting involved, here are some tips to help you spark their interest.
The Benefits of Gardening with Kids
First, you should know about some of the benefits of gardening with kids. They include:
- Lifelong new skills of planting, nurturing and growing plants, fruits and vegetables
- Time outdoors
- Time off screens
- Exercise and physical activity
- Stress relief
- Increased connection with nature and environmental awareness
- Understanding of sustainable living and waste reduction with compost
Gardening is a way to teach them more about nature, food, and wildlife, and a chance to promote a healthy diet. A shared interest can even help you bond and make maintaining a positive relationship easier as they get older.
Start Them Young
Perhaps one of the best ways to get your kids interested in gardening is to start them young so that gardening and time in the garden are normal in their lives. Even very young children can watch you plant, pick fruit, and dig in the dirt.
Plus, it can be a great tool to help your kids to try new foods simply be serving up the new produce. You could start a pizza garden to grow all the ingredients for toppings, which is a fun way to understand the ideology of ground to plate.
Find Their Interests
When it comes to cultivating a future generation of gardeners, they will all have different interests and things that they enjoy more than others. Some children love to plant flowers and will appreciate the scent and bloom, but others prefer to grow fruit and veg or tasty edible plants.
Some young gardeners are more interested in finding ways to welcome wildlife to the space or creating wildflower gardens with brightly coloured flowers that attract butterflies.
Talk to your children about what they might enjoy and pay attention to their interests when you are shopping for supplies. Start them off easy, and try them out with simple tasks they will enjoy like using the hose.
Quick word of advice from personal experience, avoid weeding as they will not be able to easily identify what is a weed. Plus, fight temptation to give them the jobs you don’t want to do as it should be fun projects to gain long term interest.
Get the Right Tools
The tools your children can use safely will depend on their age, so make sure you consider it before letting them use your tools and supplies. Look at garden tools online and think about buying them their own, even if they can use yours. They’ll love having their own gardening set to play with.
Whatever tools you use, make sure you put them, and any chemicals, away safely when you are finished for the day.
The specific garden tools needed may vary depending on the type and size of the garden, as well as the specific tasks to be performed. However, commonly used garden tools that are child-friendly for younger children include:
- Gardening gloves: thick to protect your hands from dirt, thorns, and other hazards.
- Hand trowel: for digging small holes, transplanting seedlings, or removing weeds.
- Fork: for loosening soil, turning compost, or removing weeds.
- Spade: for digging larger holes, edging garden beds, or moving soil.
- Shovel: for digging large holes, moving heavy materials, or transferring plants.
- Rake: for levelling soil, removing debris, or collecting leaves.
- Hoe: for cultivating soil, chopping weeds, or creating furrows.
- Watering can or hose: for watering plants and maintaining proper moisture levels.
- Wheelbarrow or garden cart: for transporting heavy materials, such as soil, mulch or compost.
Tools to be used with caution and supervision, and not recommended for children (due to potential serious injury from miss-use) would be:
- Pruning shears: for cutting branches, stems, or dead plant material.
- Secateurs: for trimming and shaping small plants, bushes, or flowers.
- Knife: for cutting through roots, opening bags, or general gardening tasks.
- Pruner: for cutting thicker branches or stems that cannot be handled by pruning shears.
- Lawnmower: for mowing the lawn
- Strimmer: for edging a lawn
Teach Them Safety
Young children should never be in the garden without supervision. But it’s still a good idea to teach them what is edible and how to handle tools and plants safely. This way, when they start to work alone as they age, they’ll know what to do and be able to identify different plants, and you’ll be able to trust them to do more.
Grow Food and Herbs
Growing food is often much more exciting than plants for children, who can reap the success of any vegetable garden and see the literal fruits of their labour. They’ll love watching things like strawberries and tomatoes grow, and they’ll be eager to pick a snack or something for lunch as soon as they can.
Growing food can be very rewarding and a great way to encourage children in gardening and harvesting. And while the herb is not of the same ilk, the captivating aromas add a layer of interest.
Growing anything from seed is also a great life lesson. There are parallels in planting and parenting, with the watering, nurturing and protecting seedlings from the elements into full grown plants moved to their own pots.
This process builds a caring nature and promotes the importance of food, water, nutrients and sunlight in growing big and strong. This helps forge an early understanding about the key elements of what we really need in life. Starting with planting seeds, and keeping the soil moist. And if plants die, there is also a lesson there in taking care of things.
You can also use this to teach your children about photosynthesis, ecosystems, and the importance of pollinating bees and oxygen producing trees. It’s a lesson beyond the back-yard, to understanding climate change for the next generations of scientists.
Growing season varies for different types. The growing season in the UK typically starts in March or April and lasts until October or November, depending on the region and weather conditions. Most vegetables are sown in the spring months between March and May, but if buying shop bought seed packets it gives details on the back.
Some easy-to-grow vegetables for gardening with children include:
- Tomatoes: They can be grown in pots or in the ground and require regular watering and sunlight.
- Lettuce: It grows quickly and can be grown in containers or directly in the ground. Regular watering and partial shade are beneficial.
- Radishes: They have a fast growth rate and can be grown in small spaces. They require well-drained soil and regular watering.
- Green beans or sweet peas: They are low-maintenance and can be grown in pots or in the ground. They need support for climbing and regular watering and need to be monitored for black fly.
- Cucumbers: They need a lot of sunlight and regular watering. They can be grown in containers with support or in the ground.
- Courgettes: They grow quickly and can be grown in pots or in the ground. They require regular watering and full sun and if left unattended can grow into huge marrows.
- Spinach: It grows well in cooler weather and can be grown in pots or in the ground. Regular watering and partial shade are beneficial.
- Peppers: They need full sun and regular watering. They can be grown in pots or in the ground.
- Carrots: They require loose soil and regular watering. They can be grown in containers or in the ground.
- Herbs (such as basil, mint, and parsley): They are relatively easy to grow in pots or in the ground. They need regular watering and partial shade.
Give them Responsibilities and Projects
Giving children their tasks and responsibilities is a great way to show them you trust them and boost their confidence and interest. Very young children can be in charge of things like watering and digging, and older kids could have complete projects in their own space or small patch, like looking after hanging baskets, or a garden bed for growing sunflowers or cherry tomatoes.
Don’t Stress About Mess
Gardening can be messy and your kids are going to get wet and muddy. If you stress out about it, they won’t want to help anymore. Try to relax, and enjoy the precious moments together with your kids gardening. Yes they might dig holes and leave soil everywhere, but the shared joy trumps this a thousand fold as plants grow and crops harvest.
Gardening with kids is a fantastic and rewarding hobby to share with your off-spring, and it’s never too early for them to get involved.