Start a Summer Garden with Kids

Planting a garden, one that everyone contributes to, is a fun summer project. Here are some tips for getting everyone involved.

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Deciding What to Plant

Figuring out what you want to get out of your garden is a good starting point. What summer fruits and vegetables do you like most? What do the kids like? What space is available to you? Do you have space for watermelon plants to roam? Are climbing string beans an option? Is your garden large enough for wide growing plants like zucchini? Or are you using mostly pots in a smaller space? Most importantly, are these choices easy for kids to plant and to help maintain? Planting a combination of everyone’s favorites may be the best option: Plants that parents can care for (like tall growing or prickly ones) and others that kids can harvest easily, like strawberries and tomatoes. Luckily some plants fall under both categories.

Here’s one at the top of my list: Sunsugar Tomatoes. They are fast growing (for impatient little farmers), super sweet and the size of cherry tomatoes. While planting seeds and getting the garden ready are fun activities, there’s nothing like picking fresh fruit from the vines! The yield is unbelievable. Once they start to ripen, the kids will have fun picking tomatoes off the vine every few days, all summer long! They make great salads and are perfect on their own as a snack.

Planting a variety of vegetables will give kids a great education on how foods grow. There are plenty of options: Root vegetables like carrots, leafy lettuce and spinach, climbing plants like butter nut and string beans, prickly zucchini plants, heavy hanging veggies like peppers and eggplants, tall corn stalks, aromatic herbs, etc... The variety is almost endless and not something to take on all in one summer. We normally plant a few favorites and add a few new plants to the mix. If they don’t thrive, it is a little disappointing, but that’s also an important lesson learned. We can’t control the weather or all of the conditions needed to make food grow - something farmers know all too well.

Need some inspiration and guidance? This Vegetable Directory is a good start.

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Gear & Getting Messy

Dirt. Kids love dirt! Some kids may prefer using gardening gloves while others will dig right in. It’s a good idea to have kid-sized gloves, a trowel, hand rake, plastic shoes (like Crocs that you can hose off easily). That takes us to water and the hose. Honestly, the participation in the gardening process comes and goes throughout the day. The kids are easily distracted by spraying water with the hose (to make rainbows) and digging where they shouldn’t be digging. It’s all part of the fun! While they are digging they will find bugs and worms! If you have a bug collector he’s in luck. Again, creating a home for their new pet worm will be yet another distraction. Guaranteed they will come back from time to time to help you drop in seeds, dig a hole, pat the soil around a plant and of course, water the the whole garden!

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Kid-friendly Garden Plans & Activities

This is the Family Garden, so it is important that kids have a role in the process. Since kids like to make stuff, involve them in designing the garden layout. Drawing a Garden Plan, which is very useful, is a fun activity. Once you’ve decided what to plant, there’s the question of where to plant them? What plants go next to what plants? Check this Companion Planting chart for help. Then ask your child to draw your final garden plan so that when the day comes, they can direct the project! That garden plan is likely to get soggy and dirty so you’ll need a back-up plan to identify the seeds and little plants in the earth. Plant Markers to the rescue! These can be made with painted stones, popsicle sticks, old wooden spoons and more. They are fun to make and will be there on display in the garden for everyone to see!

Check back with us in a few months to see how the harvest is going!

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