Gardening is a great hobby for curious youngsters. It teaches lessons in responsibility, nutrition, and ecology. Plus, kids love to play in the dirt! Tailor the tasks to suit your child’s age and make it a family event.
There is no need to buy synthetic fertilizers when you and your child can use kitchen scraps. Save fruit and vegetable peels, eggshells and coffee grounds for a day or two. Chop the peels and crush the eggshells to speed up their decomposition.
Make Your Bed
Choose a sunny location for your garden plot. Clear the area of weeds and stones. Loosen the soil to a depth of about two inches. Sprinkle the area with your compost materials. Top that with a thick layer, about ten sheets, of black and white newspaper. Overlap the edges to get complete coverage. Avoid the glossy and colored sections because they may contain toxic inks. Soak the paper with water and top it with rocks to hold it in place. This will attract beneficial insects and keep the area free of weeds until you are ready to plant.
Pick Your Plants
Help your child select plants suited for your yard and budget. Seeds are inexpensive and demonstrate the plant’s full life cycle. However, live plants give instant results and may be more appropriate for younger children.
If you choose to grow seeds, start them indoors. Fill yogurt cups or similar containers with potting soil. Plant the seeds according to the depth indicated on the package. Be sure to save the packages for reference. Write the date and name of the plant on a Popsicle stick. Place a label in each plant. Set the containers in a sunny window and keep the soil moist.
When buying plants from local stores, it is best to shop early. By Sunday afternoon, for example, you may find the store is picked over by all the weekend shoppers. Also be sure to check the plants for damage or insects.
Purchased plants usually need to be planted soon. Your homegrown seedlings are ready to transplant when they have two or three leaves. It is less traumatic for the plant if you do this in the cooler morning or evening hours. Remove the newspaper and rocks from your garden plot. Your child will probably notice plenty of doodlebugs and worms. They have been hard at work turning your scraps into nutritious plant food.
Refer to your seed packets for planting depth and spacing. Help your child dig holes at appropriate intervals. Carefully turn the plant container sideways and gently squeeze to remove the seedling. Place in the hole and fill with soil. Transfer the label stakes next to their respective plants. Water well to help the plants acclimate.
Keep the garden watered if there is not enough rain. Use a garden hose or watering can to give the garden a good soaking every few days. Aim the water flow at the ground, not the plant itself. These deep soakings will encourage strong root development and help your plants thrive in the heat.
Teach your child learn what a weed looks like. Let him know weeds steal water and nutrients from your garden. Help him pull weeds regularly to keep your garden healthy.
If insects become a problem, buy a bag of diatomaceous earth. This non-toxic substance desiccates insects it touches. Use it only as needed because it also kills beneficial insects like ladybugs. Only adults should handle this task. It is very drying to the skin, so be sure to wash hands after handling.
Use this opportunity to teach some basic lessons. For example, always apply sunscreen before working outdoors. Kid size garden tools and gloves may also make it easier for your child to do garden chores. Remember to care for your garden. It is a living thing and depends on you.