Any time is a great time to show kids how easy it can be to grow something - all you need is sunshine and air for the leaves, and water and nutrients for the roots. Each flower, vegetable or plant has its own preferences for optimal growth, but it can still be a simple process to grow your own produce, whether you have access to a garden or not.
One of the most important things to remember is that you likely will have a lot of what you need for growing in your house right now. The bases of so many foods can be planted and will sprout: lettuce, cabbage, celery, lemongrass, beans, avocado, potatoes, sweet potatoes, ginger, pineapple, garlic, onions, pumpkins, mushrooms, peppers, fennel, tomatoes, basil, turnips, cherries, apples, peaches, lemons, hazelnuts, chestnuts - and more! DIY & Crafts takes you through which part of the vegetable, herb or fruit scraps you need to plant. Indoor or outdoor, the main thing to remember is that a good source of light is vital. Scope out the sunniest spot in the garden, or the windowsill that gets the most light, for optimal growing power.
The Guardian has put together a great resource for growing vegetables regardless of your living situation. From harvesting seeds from fruits and veggies you already have, to fashioning your own growing pots, to sourcing compost and soil, they take you through the basics of creating small crops.
If you’re interested in getting your children into gardening, it’s important to select plants that will succeed, so they can see how fun and rewarding it can be. The BBC has created a guide for the best plants to select for success. Remember that plants that sprout quickly, and grow fast, will hold the child’s interest and give him a sense of pride. For example cucumbers, beans, and zucchini all have large seeds and are easy to grow. Cherry tomatoes and radishes, although having small seeds produce rapidly.
The benefits for children
Children are natural gardeners. They are curious, love flowers and prefer playing in the dirt. So creating a special mini garden together will help them learn about nature, encourage responsibility and let them experience a sense of accomplishment. A children’s garden is an excellent way to create a safe, summer place to continue learning. In their own garden a child can observe and discover while they interact with nature. And above all, you’ll spend time together and will have fun.
Once you have a selection of perfectly organic, packed-with-vitamins vegetables, some cooking activities will help them love their garden even more. This is a brilliant way to make picky eaters have their vegetables! By making their own salads (with the help of a grown up), and experiencing its great taste, your child will enjoy it even more.
A garden can also provide your child an opportunity to utilize all their senses, as they experience the unpredictability of nature. The garden can be used as a canvas for some relaxation and free play. Why don’t you give your child a nice massage there on the grass, the flowers’ aromas and the buzzing of bees soothing and helping them relax. Or how about showing them some yoga exercises while having a rest after planting the seeds?
Recycling and reusing
Don’t worry if you don’t have all the “proper” potting equipment. One of the great things about a DIY garden is that you can recycle and re-use household items as pots. Kids Gardening explains the many household items that might otherwise be discarded that make creative and sustainable vessels for growing flowers and vegetables. Grocery store bags, toilet roll tubes, newspapers, old CDs: all can be reused in your garden, giving your child a sense of the importance (and ease) of reducing the amount of waste a household puts out.
Ultimately, a successful crop is just one of the benefits of starting your own gardening project with your little ones. You get to spend time together, nurture growth, find teaching opportunities about nature, patience, organic eating and reducing waste and have fun.
The internet is a wealth of information about indoor and outdoor gardening, and a few useful resources for gardening with children are listed below.
Kids Gardening - Gardening Activities and Ideas
Vertical Veg - Small Space Growing
Garden Organic - Growing Advice
Earth Easy - Gardening with Children
BBC - Gardening with Children
Guardian - No Soil, Seeds or Space, No Problem