Gardening with Kids – Beginner Gardening Tips
Just think of it…
With gardening a child can become more valued for they will be contributing to the food on the table.
It gives them more validation for they will be food producers!
When first introducing a child to gardening set them up for some early successes. It is these early successes that will make for lifelong gardeners.
The following tips were taken from volume 2 in “Bringing Out the Potential of Children.” By Patrice Porter found at: http://fullpotential.co.place
This is great to get children started gardening but also good for any beginner gardener.
Ensuring Those Beginning Successes
To set your children up for success
- Start with a small plot that’s easy for them to manage. Make it a spot of their very own even if that spot is just one container they are growing in. You can always add more containers later or expand their growing area when they are ready for more.
- Make sure they are involved in every aspect of the creation of their garden. By everything, I mean EVERYTHING – from the choosing of their gardening spot, planting and caring for their garden and be sure it’s them who do the harvesting and bring in their goodies to add to the table. No matter how small the contribution, it’s important they see they can add to the family food supply and well-being by providing food for the table.
- Come prepared to help out a little ‘behind the scene’ with things they may not be ready for yet. You may need to do some pest control, or move the sprinkler around, perhaps some of the initial breaking of the ground. Let them do whatever they are capable of remembering that the child’s ‘ownership’ of the plot is the main thing.
- Never rush things. Give your child lots of time to explore, bringing out their sense of wonderment and curiosity. There is a whole lot happening in the garden they’ll want to check out and you’ll find there is no greater joy than that from a child who has cultivated plants in his or her own vegetable garden.
- A picture is worth a thousand words. Never tell kids something you could show them.
Choosing your garden spot:
- When choosing your garden spot
- Make it easily accessible for children but also where they can be viewed by others.
- Make sure it gets at least 6 hours of sunlight.
- Find a spot that is somewhat sheltered and out of the wind.
• It’s a good idea to spend only about 15 minutes per activity before changing tasks. Most kids love to water and plant things but usually not so much the weeding, mulching and thinning. Here’s where this guideline comes in handy allowing you to say “Let’s do 10 minutes of weeding, then you can grab your watering can to give your plants a drink or let’s spend 10 minutes thinning then we can have a treasure hunt and find some peas to pick.”
• It’s very important to show off their work. Lots of attention can be the best motivator for children to stay involved in their projects. When people come over point out their gardening projects. Take lots of picture to place in their gardening journal and to share with grandparents or other special people in their life.
• Encourage them to talk about their garden and to keep a garden journal. This will give them a record to refer back to. It will help in future garden plans.
Building a Good Foundation
Soil – the foundation of every garden. A good healthy soil makes for good healthy plants.
The ideal soil to aim for is loam which is a combination of 20% clay, 40% sand, and 40% silt for plants to thrive in.
You can improve your soil by adding compost, leaves, grass clippings, well-aged manure, plus many others too!
I want to put a good word in here for collecting leaves which are such a rich addition to your garden. Look at nature, how leaves are shed in the fall to break down and feed the soil for next year’s growth. Start collecting them to feed your garden!
If you are growing in pots pick up a good bag of potting soil or you can mix your own.
Composting is another way for making soil.
There is a magic in taking your food scraps, waste material and turning it into rich, nutrient dense soil to grow more food.
There is a wonderful pdf on composting for kids by Aggie-Horticulture at: http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/kindergarden/kidscompost/CompostingForKids.pdf
On to Seeds and Plants
Set up a garden plan and order some seeds. To begin with choose something quick and easy to grow.
NOTE: Before you get carried away by all the marvelous items to choose from remember you want to keep it small to begin with. Make yourself a list of what you like to eat or what you might buy at a farmers’ market. Also consider some edible flowers which make a beautiful addition to the garden.
Many companies give out free seed catalogues which are great fun to look through.
Seeds of Diversity has a whole listing of seed catalogues at:
A fun easy way to start growing is to turn your food scraps into new plants! Romaine lettuce, celery and green onions easily grow from the parts that you would usually throw away.
If you are not quite ready for a garden plot yet here’s a quick simple way to get some seeds sprouting for some freshly grown food – seed sprouts.
You can sprout beans, peas, lentils, wheat, alfalfa, clover, broccoli, radish, onions and more. The thing about sprouts is that you get to see results happening in days, easily visible in the sprouting jar.
Take this one step further with growing microgreens. You can grow: Lettuce Kale, Endives, Beets, Spinach, Radishes, Watercress, Peas
Now let’s get some seeds in the ground and growing.
Tips for the beginner gardener
- Check the seed packets for planting instructions.
- Gather all your gardening essentials and have them handy. These may include things like a garden fork, spade. Watering hoses, soaking hose, hoe, hand weeder (remember the old kitchen fork, perfect for this), and a basket for moving around mulch or soil.
- Larger seeds are pressed gently into the soil. Smaller seed is usually just ‘broadcast’ carefully on the surface.
- Most seed should be covered lightly with soil, and the soil should be pressed down gently.
- Water the seedbed thoroughly with a nozzle that makes a gentle spray, then water daily until you see seedlings. A week or so after the seedlings emerge, you can reduce your watering to every other day and water a bit longer each time.
Some things to consider –
- Different plants have different needs for sunlight. Those that need full sun include tomatoes, squash, beans, eggplant, corn, and peppers, while those less dependent on the sun are leafy vegetables, potatoes, carrots, and turnips.
- When choosing what to put where, remember to place taller plants on the north side of your plot to prevent their shadows from blocking the sunlight to shorter plants.
- It’s a good idea to mark your rows so you know where everything is growing (or make a little garden map marking where you planted everything. A map is a good addition to your garden journal).
Children find it so hard to wait to see results and to be able to start eating from their garden. Be patient (gardening is great for teaching patients for it gives many rewards). Remember you could be harvesting from these little gardens for many months.
Many plants you’ll want to grow from seed (the cheapest route to go) or are required to be direct sown (check the seed packs for instructions). To save you time and get a jump on the growing season you can buy “starts” or seedlings from local nurseries.
Missouri Botanical Gardens has a site full of growing tips (although it is geared for their specific area it still has many valuable tips that are great for any area.) A good reference site at: http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/gardens-gardening/your-garden/help-for-the-home-gardener/edible-gardening/vegetable-gardening.asp
Feeding and Watering Your Plants
Plants just like people need to have food and water. For a lush succulent growth give your plants regular watering.
- The general rule is to give your plants about 1” of water a week.
- Let that budding young gardener poke their finger into the soil to see if it feel dry. They can stick their finger right in about 3-4” and if it feels dry it’s time to water.
- Bring out the watering can or hose and you can bring out a rain gage for checking to see how much water you are giving your plants plus it’s always good to have a rain gage out to measure how much rain your garden is getting anyway. This is a good indicator if you need to water.
- The best time for watering is in the morning.
- Make sure not to over water and drown your plants, making them waterlogged.
Now you’ve given them water what about food for your plants. Well feed plants will grow big and strong.
- If you have done a good job of improving your soil feeding it with decomposed leaves, compost or maybe you added some well-rotted manure then you will not have to fertilize too much.
- Your plants will tell you if they are lacking something with stunted growth, pale leaves and low yields.
- The best time to feed them is when they are at their most active stages of growth and when they are starting to bloom and fruit.
- If you didn’t get time to add compost in when you were preparing your garden you can always make some compost tea to give to your plants. Kids love making concoctions and they can watch their plants come alive and thrive with a good feeding.
- Compost and other plant teas are usually fed to the roots of your plants, simply water into the soil. Foliar feeding can also be done and the helpful microbes and bacteria in the tea aid in combating viruses, fungi, pests and diseases.
- For foliar feeding, grab an old shirt, curtain or piece of muslin to strain the tea before filling up your sprayer or watering can, then add a small squirt (approximately ½ teaspoon of detergent or vegetable oil per watering can (4 litres/1 gal)) to help the liquid stick to the leaves.
Getting Rid of the Competition – Weeding and Thinning
To have your young plants grow to their full potential you need to get rid of anything that is competing for your plant’s nutrients, sunlight and water.
This is where weeding and thinning comes in.
Some helpful tips:
- Learn to identify weeds and manage them with this handy guide put out by the National Gardening Association at: http://garden.org/learn/library/weeds/
- Catch the weeds when they are young and easier to pull out.
- If it’s thinning you’re doing, most seed packs will tell you what distance to thin your plant to for best growth.
- Mulch your garden to keep the weeds down. Mulch can be newspapers, straw, old leaves, or landscaping fabric, that is placed around your plants to cover any bare ground. This will help to keep the water in too.
- Get the weeds before they go to seed and multiply in your garden.
Another thing your plants need is sun. Prevent other plants from blocking out the sun –
- Part of planning your garden is to have the taller plants towards the back so they don’t shade out any smaller plants. The seed packs will usually give you the height of the plant.
- Again get those weeds out early to prevent them from growing tall and blocking out the sun.
This done your plants will be getting the maximum benefits of their growing area, growing into fully mature producing plants. That is unless some pests get to them first
Doing Pest Control and Keeping Your Plants Disease Free
A healthy garden is the best defence.
The very best thing you can do for your garden is to check it over regularly. Make it a regular thing, part of your daily routine. Choose a time that fits into your daily schedule, say after breakfast. Earlier in the day is best, before the heat of the day.
Take a tour around the garden. Check –
- The rain gage to see if the garden got any rain water.
- Look for dry looking plants and check the soil to feel if it is dry.
- Look for any unhealthy plants and watch for any bugs that may be moving in to eat your plants.
Insects and disease are usually attracted to stressed, damaged or otherwise unhealthy plants.
Easiest way to prevent insect damage in your garden is to discourage them from coming in the first place. Instead attract beneficial insects by creating a garden insectary. Earth Easy shows you how at: http://eartheasy.com/grow_garden_insectary.htm *Link reference Feb. 2018
To keep your garden healthy –
- Pull out any weak plants.
- Build healthy soil
- Try foliar sprays. Seaweed spray is great if you can get it.
- Minimize insect habitat. Clear garden area of debris and weeds which are breeding places for insects. Use clean mulch.
- Interplant and rotate crops. Mixed plantings makes it much less likely for pests to spread throughout a crop. Rotating crops each year helps avoid a re-infestation of pests which might have over-wintered in the garden.
- Keep foliage dry. Do your watering early so foliage will be dry for most of the day. Wet foliage encourages insect and fungal damage to your plants.
- When working with infested plants, clean your tools so you don’t spread it.
Take good care of your plants, watch them closely, catching things early plus giving them everything they need to grow. Do this and you’ll be well on your way to being a successful gardener and producing healthy delicious food!
Bringing In the Harvest and Preserving It
When you start to see the fruits of your labor it’s time to harvest and bring them in to enjoy.
Note: Include the amount of harvesting as part of your garden planning, keeping the garden manageable. When planning what you will be planting also pick out some favorite recipes you would want to use with your produce or different ways of preserving you might like to try (try small batch canning). How much of your harvest will realistically be eaten.
Make harvesting a routine you can do daily, your daily harvest walk. Add to your checklist given earlier – checking for ripe and ready to harvest crops. Take a harvesting basket and make sure to always keep it handy (perhaps by the door) ready to fill with vegetables. Try to schedule your “harvest walks” before the heat of the day.
Knowing when your crops are ripe and ready to harvest and also knowing the best way to store them has been made easy by the Weekend Gardener Monthly Web Magazine, who published a wonderful harvesting guide found at: http://www.weekendgardener.net/vegetable-gardening-tips/harvest-090709.htm
Reviewing Your Successes and Planning for Future Gardens
Once the harvest is in, the garden has been cleaned up and put to bed, it’s time to pull out your gardening journal (you did keep one right?) and review your successes in the garden.
- Look at things you would change, what was successful, what needed more improving.
- Take note of things you really liked in the garden and want to grow again.
- Also what were the things you didn’t like and will not be planting again.
- Start your plan for your next year. Pull out a piece of paper and draw your garden on it plotting out what you would plant in your next garden.
Find a Free Vegetable Garden Planner with kid vegetable garden at:
May your gardens produce an abundance of wholesome, nutritious food, for you to enjoy and share! Happy growing!
For More Gardening Tips and Consultation Go to: www.GardeningForFoodSecurity.com
These tips came from “Bringing Out the Potential of Children. Volume 2 Gardeners” by Patrice Porter
Bringing Out the Potential of Children Series
Volume 1: Bringing Out the Potential of Children – Writers/Authors
Volume 2: Bringing Out the Potential of Children – Gardeners/Food Producers
Volume 3: Bringing Out the Potential of Children – Cooks/Chefs
Look for the complete series with their accompanying workbooks at: http://fullpotential.co.place
Find this in condensed form with 10 steps to begin gardening in the Alexa Skill – Beginners Gardening
Go to: https://www.amazon.com/Patrice-Porter-Beginners-Gardening/dp/B07CZ66N6C/