It's officially spring and we're getting ready to garden. Gardening is great for kids. Kid's learn hard work and consistency. You can't just water once, you have to continue to care for the plants all season. They also have to be patient for the pay-off. Gardening is a good summer activity to get kids away from the TV, outside and exercising. It also promotes healthy eating. Home grown vegetables picked at their peak are contain more nutrients that store bought vegetables. Plus, they taste better. Kids are more likely to try something new if they've grown it themselves.
There are 4 basic steps to a family backyard garden.
- Prepare the soil.
- Water and fertilize.
Preparation is a fun thing for kids to be involved with. They get to use shovels and since there's nothing planted yet, they can't hurt anything. Choose a sunny spot (gets at least 8 hours of sun) and dig out the weeds and add in the compost.
Planting is also a very kid friendly activity. Whether you plant seeds or seedlings, buy them from a local nursery, not a big box chain. At the local nursery you can talk with experts who can tell you what will grow well in your area, how best to care for it, and whether your soil will need anything extra added in. You can't plant seedlings until after the last frost. After Mother's Day is a good rule of thumb. If you're planting seeds, you can plant after the ground thaws in late March, early April.
Check to see if your plants need water frequently, but don't over-water them. If you stick your finger into the soil down to your first knuckle the soil should be moist. If it's not, you need to water. Also look for drooping leaves and a duller gray-green color. Your local nursery expert can help you choose a good fertilizer. Granule fertilizers need to be applied less often than liquid fertilizers.
Harvest is the fun part. Kids will love seeing, and tasting, the rewards of their hard work. Some of our families favorite things to plant are pumpkins, green beans, snap peas, carrots, and potatoes.
A great website for beginning kids gardening is http://urbanext.illinois.edu/firstgarden/.
Enjoy your garden!