I moved to Maine from an apartment in NYC, when my kids were 1 and 2 years old. From the first summer we got to Maine, we all gardened together and the kids loved it. Needless to say, in the beginning, they were not much help, but watching things grow was magic to them. Thankfully, as teenagers, they still share the wonder of watching things grow and delight at growing things they can eat.
There are lots of ways to turn kids on to gardening. Here are some tips I picked up along the way.
Plant Vegetables That Kids Like to Eat
Eating what you grow is one of the most fun things anyone can experience - no matter how old you are. It is even more fun if you grow things you like to eat. My kids love peas, so we grew a lot of them - sugar snaps, English peas and snow peas. Peas are a particularly good vegetable to grow with kids because the seeds (the peas themselves) are big, so they are easy to plant. Peas are also a really easy crop to grow.
Potatoes are my kids favorite vegetable to grow. Potatoes are easy and grow so fast that you can almost see the plants shooting up. Besides eating them, the part of growing potatoes in containers that my kids like the best is harvesting them. Pawing through the soil to find the tubers is a very satisfying gardening treasure hunt.
Let Your Child Choose What to Grow
One of the best ways to get kids enthusiastic about gardening is to let them choose what they want to grow and give them their own container to grow it in. My son loves sunflowers, so we grow those in a pot. My daughter loves pesto, so she does a container of basil every year.
One of the keys for anyone starting out gardening is to experience success, so growing things without a huge degree of difficulty is a good idea. While watermelons or may be your child's idea of heaven, you might want to let them try growing it, but also consider growing another pot of something else that is easier.
Easy Fruit to Grow
Use Fun Containers
Truly, anything can be a container. From old toys to wagons, to clamshells, shoes and juiceboxes. Anything that has enough drainage so water can flow freely out of the bottom is fair game. Also, anything you can either drill, cut or punch holes in will also work.
Keep in mind though, that bigger is often better. The bigger your container, the more soil it will hold. In container gardening, more soil means better water retention which means you have more lattitude with watering and that usually increases your chances of success. Don't follow the old gardening myth that says you can put gravel in the bottom of a container with no drainage.
Try a Pizza Garden
Doing a themed container garden can also appeal to kids. My kids' favorite is a Pizza Garden, which is a container filled with herbs that you put on pizza. It's a great way to make frozen pizza more interesting and it's fun for the kids to go out with a scissor and snip the herbs and then put them on top of their pizza.
We have also done tea gardens, using chamomille, lavender and several different types of mint. Bath gardens have herbs you can put in your bathtub to gently scent it. Mint is great, kids love choclate mint and orange mint. Pinapple sage, rosemary, scented geranium, lemon verbena all work well as will and any herbs your kids like.
Reusable Grocery Bag Herb Garden - Video
Try a Grow Box or Self Watering Container
If you want to grow vegetables with kids, grow boxes or self watering containers are fantastic. You may have seen ads for grow boxes, and unlike growing tomatoes upside-down, they really deliver on their promises. I have found that there is no easier or better way to grow vegetables, especially tomatoes.
The chances of success with grow boxes over conventional containers is greatly increased and the yields are greater. All good things when gardening with children. Also, everyone, but kids especially have the tendancy to over water their containers. Grow boxes make that impossible.
I have tried both the Earthbox and Grow Box. I prefer the Earthbox but both work well.
Here are reviews for both and tips on how have the best success with them.
Don't Force It
I know several people who were forced to garden as children and now won't have anything to do with it. The way I've handled it with my kids is with the theory that this is my passion and if they see me doing something that makes me happy and has beautiful and sometimes edible results, they will embrace it and it might become a part of their lives. So far they have.
I never force them to garden and help them, even if they have their own container garden. I largely let them do the fun parts of gardening. That way, when I ask them for help with the not so fun parts they are usually very generous and are enormous help.
I also believe that with kids (and anyone else), if they are successful they will want to do it again. Starting small and easy is a good way to give them success. Also, it's a good idea to prep them that gardening is never a sure thing - it's an adventure and there is always a risk that something will go wrong and your plants might die.
Gardening is full of life lessons and provide a wonderful way to impart them to kids while doing something reall cool.