Kids are intrigued with nature and will often welcome the idea of creating a garden of their very own, especially a vegetable garden. Vegetable gardens give kids the opportunity to explore all parts of the growing process, from the depths of garden soil to the bounties of garden crops that soon follow. And all the while, their hungry curiosity about the natural world is being fed.
You’ll see it in their eyes, brimming with pride and joy, as they pick their first season’s harvest. You’ll hear in their voices as they tell everyone about their garden: “Look at what we grew in our garden. Come and see our garden!”
Vegetables are always good choices for kids to start with in a garden. Not only do these germinate faster, but they can also be eaten once ripened and many interesting varieties are available, which appeal to the kids’ senses with fun colours, shapes, and sizes. Tomatoes, carrots, and radishes are great choices, along with vine crops like cucumbers, pumpkins, and gourds.
However, you should encourage the kids to choose their own vegetables for the garden, including flowering plants. Sunflowers, marigolds, zinnias, and nasturtiums are great flowers for kids. Explain to kids that flowers help attract pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, to the vegetable garden, which is important for not only the plants but also the pollinators.
Planning the Garden
When planning the kids’ vegetable garden, let them not only choose the plants, but also the location and layout. Just be sure that the vegetable garden is located in a sunny area that is easily accessible to water. Also, make sure that it is easily viewed by you, so the kids can be supervised while in the garden whenever you are not outside with them.
Vegetable gardens do not have to be laid out in traditional rectangular plots, unless of course, the kids want it to be. Vegetable gardens can be designed and grown in raised beds or containers. This works especially well for areas with little space. Vegetable gardens can also be grown in a circular pattern with various sections divided by different plants, much like slices of pizza.
Allow kids to use their imagination and the possibilities are endless. Offer your ideas, but let them come up with some of their own. Suggest the inclusion of a sitting area or perhaps even a secluded play area. After all, most kids love hideouts.
Sunflowers are great for creating fun, private retreats. Plant some morning glory vines in between and let them climb up the stalks for additional privacy. This could be set off to the side somewhere or planted along the edges of the kids’ vegetable garden.
Let the kids help with soil preparation, seed planting, and maintenance. To help encourage these gardening tasks, provide them with kid-sized tools of their own and a special place for storing them. Use this opportunity as a teaching tool about the importance of healthy soil, proper watering, and weeding in the garden. Kids often enjoy learning while given hands-on instruction.
Explain the role of wildlife in the vegetable garden, and how both plants and animals depend on one another for their survival. Do not over stimulate them, however. Allow kids to move and learn at their own pace, keeping everything age appropriate.
During the harvest season, be sure to teach kids the importance of only eating from plants that are safe. Feed the curiosity of kids by planting a vegetable garden just for them. Growing a kid’s vegetable garden is a great way to introduce them to and get them involved with the natural world around them.
Did you know that a tomato is referred to as a vegetable but is actually a fruit? Were you aware that the tomato was also considered to be poisonous at one time? Of course, it’s not! It is one of the most commonly grown and eaten ‘vegetables’ around. Nearly 90 percent of gardeners grow them in their gardens.
Here’s a Fun Activity for the Kids Vegetable Garden
When choosing plants for the vegetable garden, allow the kids to flip through seed catalouges for ideas. Not only do these provide useful planting and growing information, but they are filled with great pictures so kids can actually see what the end product will look like. After they have chosen their plants, make some photocopies and help them cut out the pictures. Then let the kids glue ice-lolly sticks on the backs of each one and allow them to dry. Finally, cover both sides of the pictures with clear, adhesive shelf paper to protect them from outdoor elements, like sun and rain. Now the kids have decorative plant labels for their garden. Let them stick the label in their designated locations after planting.