Okay, so you want to garden with your kids this summer? That’s great! New to gardening? Not a problem. Here’s what you need to know as a beginning green thumb on the seacoast.
Why should I start a garden with my kids?
The real question is, why not?! Yes, gardening with your kids can be slightly more work than gardening solo, but the benefits far outweigh the challenges. Aside from the obvious perk of spending quality time with your littles, gardening with kids can have a positive impact on their development, too. I mean, let’s face it. Starting a family garden is a fabulous addition to the growing list of summer ideas you already got from Molly.
What kind of garden should I grow with kids?
Sit down with your kids and plan out places where you could create a garden. Next, think about the “what”. Do you love sunflowers or fresh cut blossoms in your home? Are your kids ravenous for beans and tomatoes? Involve the kids in the planning process to decide what goes in the garden. Spoiler alert. They’ll be a LOT more engaged in this whole endeavor if they get to pick out the seeds and plants.
Um, what zone are we in?
As you learn more and more about starting your own garden, you will hear about zones. This simply refers to the region that you’re located in, and how it impacts the growth schedule of your garden. Shortly put, the closer you are to the coast, your zone is in the 6a range. Whereas if you are more inland, your garden patch may be more of a 5b. Keep this in mind as you narrow down your planting wish list. For more on USDA gardening zones, click here.
Note: if you’re worried that you’ve “missed the window” to get gardening, don’t worry. Our zone is a late one, compared to the rest of the country, so the planting season is just getting underway!
Where (and how) do we build a family garden?
Most flowers and vegetable plants thrive with 8-12 hours of sun. So, naturally, you’ll want a sunnier spot. Nearly all seed packages will indicate the minimum amount of sunlight required for strong growth. When gardening with kids though, you’ll have to consider how the garden will be accessible to them, too. A plot that is out of the high-traffic yard space is ideal, but also close enough to a water source for little, helping hands. Don’t have a yard? No problem. Container planting from a sunny windowsill is just as possible.
Once you’ve determined where your family wants the garden, you’ll need to prep the container, build a raised bed or enclose a plot with fencing. This will keep critters out, but also help your kids to understand that this isn’t just another sandbox. Whether it’s a small 4×4 box or a Pinterest-worthy series of beds, this space will become nothing short of magical for them.
From there, you’ll need a few tools, soil and compost, seeds or seedlings for planting. This article gives a great step-by-step plan for getting going with your own garden.
Speaking of planting, where are some cool places to take kids to buy plants?
If you’re not into starting plants from seed, check out your local farmer’s market. Additionally, we are fortunate to have some of the most beautiful and knowledgeable nurseries around:
What are the best “kid friendly” plants to start with?
This summer will be our fourth year gardening with kids. While everyone has their favorites, I have found only a few to be truly kid tested, mother-approved. The easiest to plant, keep, and harvest with young ones are:
- herbs (specifically Parsley, Basil, and Chives)
- bush beans
- cherry tomatoes
Most of these plants have seeds large enough to sow with little fingers, but are hardy enough to tolerate the wacky seacoast weather patterns. Typically, we plant beans, carrots, and spinach from seed. The rest we like to purchase as seedlings.
What specific garden “chores” can I assign to the kids?
Gardening doesn’t have to be a spectator sport for the kiddos. Get them involved! Based on their age, interest level, and abilities, kids can assist with all aspects of the garden. The most important part is modeling the chore so that the child feels confident and capable to complete the task on their own. Take time showing kids the differences in leaves, soil texture, and symptoms of plant blight to get them invested in the growing process.
- Prepping & planting seeds (ages 2.5 and up)
- Watering (ages 3 and up)
- Weeding and harvesting vegetables (ages 5 and up)
- pH soil balancing and blight problems (ages 8 and up)
Where can I turn for more answers?
Yes, there is the internet. But, lucky for us, as Seacoast residents we have access to the incredible resources made available through the University of New Hampshire. They can answer any of the other dozens of questions that may crop up as you dig deeper into gardening with kids.