Gardening with Kids: Tips from Global Gardens

Photo by Makenzie Howard Photography

Starting a garden this spring? Make it a family activity! Gardening is the perfect space for adults and kids alike to try new things, practice critical thinking and make discoveries.

Involving your kids:

Find appropriately sized tools. Our favorite kid-friendly tools are hand shovels, hand rakes and larger tools like digging forks—or full-sized shovels in larger spaces. After practicing tool safety with your child, you may be surprised by their ability to use tools well!

Invite your kids into the design-making process. Ask questions and make decisions together. Where will the garden be? What size should it be? What will you plant? Be unafraid to try new things or go with your kids’ ideas. This process is more about creating an experience for you and your kids than having the perfect garden.

Garden Steps:

1. Determine where your garden will be.

For most flowering or fruiting plants, find a spot with six to eight hours of direct sunlight. Leafy greens and root veggies can handle a bit less sun, but the minimum amount of direct sunlight any plants will need is three hours. Consider where your garden’s water source will be. Easy access will help you keep the garden watered. How big will your garden be? A garden can be any size—whether you choose to garden in a few small flowerpots, or a larger raised bed.

2. Before planting, prepare the soil together.

Remove weeds, rocks, sticks—all things that could hamper your seeds’ growth. Be on the lookout for insects and decomposers who’ve made their home in your garden. Identify any bugs and determine what their garden jobs might be. Bugs like roly-polies, worms, millipedes and ants benefit the soil by breaking down dead materials, and other bugs help eat plant pests. Once the garden soil is clear, fluff up any clumps that have formed, and gently level your planting area. Be careful not to pack the soil down—this will make it harder for air and water to move in the dirt and feed your plants.

3. Pick out some seasonal seeds.

Take some time to observe your seeds—notice how large or small each seed variety is. Compare the colors and shapes. As a rule of thumb, the size of a seed corresponds with how deep to plant it. Tiny seeds, like carrots or lettuce seeds, can be sprinkled on top of the soil. Try to spread them evenly, like you would sprinkles on top of a cupcake. Seeds that are slightly larger (e.g., kale, radish, beet, spinach, pepper and tomato seeds) can be buried up to a fingernail’s depth. Bigger seeds, like peas or beans, can be buried ¾ to a full finger deep. See the back of your seed packet for specific details. Instead of packing the dirt, gently pinch the soil closed over your seed, or sprinkle dirt on top. Use popsicle sticks, paint stirrers, or even plastic spoons to label where and what you planted so that you can watch them grow.

4. Care for your seeds.

Daily routines are measuring and tracking plant growth and watering your plants. Find a time to do these tasks together. Keep your garden weed-free after your seedlings sprout. Be careful weeding around your baby sprouts. Make garden care fun with weeding competitions and bug hunts, and by brainstorming creative uses for your garden’s bounty (e.g., creating flower art or bouquets and trying new recipes together).

What to grow:

Consider your space, the amount of sunlight and the season. Mid-April through May is a great time in Oklahoma to plant beans, okra, peas, kale, lettuce, radishes, carrots, zinnias, corn and cucumbers. May and June will be great months to plant sweet potatoes, peppers, melons and tomatoes.

Work with your kids to choose plants to grow. Maybe you choose certain vegetables because you love eating them already. Maybe you are excited to try new things! Or maybe you decide to theme your garden based on what you and/or your kids love. Can you plant a Minecraft Garden with plants you might find in Minecraft? Or a Pizza Garden filled with pizza ingredients? Harvest and celebrate by making a garden pizza.

Follow your own—and your kids’—excitement and curiosities in the gardening process. You’ll find that you learn and grow as gardeners—and as people!

About Global Gardens: Global Garden empowers students and families through inquiry-based learning that takes place in the garden. Our holistic model teaches students about science, peace, health, and the environment, while challenging them to become caring, engaged community members. As our students plan and cultivate their gardens, they grow the confidence and skills to create positive changes in their lives and the world around them.

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