How To Start a Garden
I’ve been herb and veggie gardening for several years. Every spring, I look forward to planting a few items so that I can watch them grow, gain pride in my achievement, and most importantly, save money on fresh produce (because, let’s be honest, we can’t always go to the farmer’s market!)
Gardening can also be a really fun activity in which to involve your toddlers. When my son was younger, we started out very easy. We planted some tomato and pepper seedlings. My son watched and “helped” me put them in the dirt, and each day he would walk me over to the little garden and point out the “mato” and “peppa.” I was sure to tell him that the flowers will make tomatoes, and that once they are ready, we will eat them. It was a great way to build a foundation, teach him sustainability and explain to him where his food comes from.
For kids, gardening is FUN while also being educational. Here are some of my best tips for starting a garden with your own family. I got my son a simple “kid sized” set of plastic gardening tools from the dollar store. If your child is a little older, you can even get children’s versions that are great at places like Home Depot, Lowe’s, Target and Walmart. Most kids love “digging” with a plastic shovel and pouring from a little watering can. Something as simple as putting seeds in a yogurt cup full of dirt can be a great activity with your child, and a few days a week, you take time to water the plants together and watch them grow!
Even if you don’t have a huge yard or lots of space, you can still have a veggie or herb garden. Our garden is a 3×3 plot that my husband allotted. Let your child have their own “pot” or space that they can care for. You honestly do not need much space! Once, I used 5 gallon buckets to plant my garden in: on the top part of the bucket, I planted herbs, in the bottom, I made a hole and planted tomatoes and peppers. Believe it or not, it was successful! Two summers ago, I harvested enough cucumbers and basil that I had 3 large freezer bags full of pesto cubes, and I ate cucumber salads for two months straight. We grew parsley and some cherry tomatoes, too, but sadly, the birds would often get my tomatoes faster than I could harvest them! My point is, you don’t need any fancy equipment or even a big plot of land. You can grow your own herbs or veggies in pots if you want.
Starting a garden can be simple. For the herbs in our garden, we bought seeds at the dollar store for cilantro, parsley, dill and basil. Yogurt cups are great to plant 3-4 seeds in some potting soil in each cup. Once those seedlings are large enough, we will move them into pots so that we can have a little container herb garden. This is super easy for anyone to try, and believe it or not, basil and cilantro are fool proof herbs that will grow like crazy during the summer as long as you keep them watered and in full sun. You can also grow green onions simply by taking a bundle that you have purchased at the market, cutting the white bottoms off, and planting them in the ground. You can continually harvest the green onions, and they will grow right back!
If the idea of growing your own food is a bit daunting, perhaps consider a pot of flowers to care for with your little one. A great idea would be to find a flower that attracts butterflies or hummingbirds. Penta, Purple Coneflower or Milkweed are all great. Let your little one care for it by watering it, and then keep your eyes peeled for pretty butterflies and hummingbirds!
Have Fun and Learn!
Curious about what plants are easiest to start with a little one for the maximum results? In my experience, basil, cilantro, green beans and tomatoes are all pretty easy to get started and generally produce results well. These plants are all hardy and will still give you fruits and herbs to harvest all summer long. No matter your child’s age, be sure to tell them about seeds, dirt, sunlight and water and how it helps the plants grow. If you can check books out at the library or use online resources to help teach them, do so! You will be amazed at what they can learn!
Once your herbs and veggies start producing, you can teach your little ones about where their veggies come from and most importantly, let them help you in the kitchen. It is almost guaranteed that if your kids helped in creating their dinner, they probably will eat it! If you get a lot of tomatoes, cilantro, and basil, you’ll be able to make the freshest salsa and caprese salads around AND your child will have helped you in the process. How’s that for an accomplishment?
If you aren’t sure about what to plant and where, the LSU Ag Center site has great information throughout that is tailored to gardening in our area. I have referred to their Planting Guide frequently over the years when I wasn’t sure what was the best plants for my needs. If you are looking for general information on gardening projects with your kids, there are also great online resources at Kids Gardening.