Gardening is an experience that will last a lifetime. Your child gets to dig in the dirt freely, you create strong memories and bonds, teach skills, and spend quality time together when you garden with your kids. Beginning gardening with your children doesn’t have to be a huge event. It can start as small as a tiny square of dirt in the yard or a pot filled with soil. Gardens are always evolving, just as gardening with your child evolves. The more comfortable you get working with your child in the yard, the bigger the project can become.
Safety is important when you consider working with children in the garden. First, consider your garden tools. They are sharp and can be dangerous when youngsters don’t understand the tool can hurt them. Make sure to pick your tools up and put them away so they aren’t laying around where someone can get hurt on them. If you don’t have kid-sized tools (and even if you do) make sure to teach your child how to hold and use the garden tools correctly.
Pesticides and insecticides are another important safety issue when working with children in the garden. You want the environment to be as safe as possible for kids, and for you too. Pesticides expose everyone around them to all sorts of toxins and poisons. Instead, look for natural alternatives to controlling pests in the garden. Here are a few safe examples I use in my garden that work quite well. I never have to worry about my daughter being exposed to chemicals or poisons.
Vinegar. Try using vinegar on weeds. Put some in a spray or pump bottle and spray the weed directly. This works along fence lines, on patios, just about anywhere you are having a problem. The vinegar doesn’t spread to nearby plants and is very effective.
Liquid Ivory Soap. Make a mixture of liquid ivory soap and water and spray on bugs (such as Japanese Beetles) to kill them. This is effective, doesn’t hurt your plants, and is safe for children.
Bar Ivory Soap. Using a cheese grater, grate bar ivory soap and sprinkle it around the base of plants that are getting eaten by rabbits or other garden pests. It is a safe and effective way to keep your plantings growing without toxins.
For other eco-friendly gardening tips that would be great to use when gardening with children, check out my Eco-Friendly Aphid Control article.
Designing your garden layout to include your child doesn’t have to be stressful or difficult. Here are some options:
– Start with a few garden pots on the patio. If you don’t have a large space in your yard, you can always start small by teaching your child to garden in a pot or two. Start by sowing seeds in the pot and watch the seeds grow into beautiful flowers or healthy vegetables to eat. What better way is there to teach about plant growth and healthy eating that starting your own food from seeds?
– Pick a small section of your vegetable or flower garden and designate it as your child’s area. You can let them choose what to plant and where, or help with ideas. Either way, giving them their own space makes your child feel independent and proud when their plantings start to grow.
– Have your child work in your garden with you. This is the approach I take. My daughter plants vegetable seeds with me right in our big garden, harvests the produce with me, and plants bulbs and other flowers in the flower gardens. Often I will dig the holes and she puts the seeds or bulbs in. Sometimes she starts her own plants indoors and transplants them outside. In that case she likes to dig the hole and do the whole planting herself.
No matter which design you choose, remember to start your child with at least a few easy plants mixed in that are sure to be successful. For instance, marigolds are a pretty flower that are pretty easy to grow. Or try sunflowers. They are big and showy, and are hardy.
Whichever you choose, remember to have fun with your child. You are teaching skills and making memories. Create a fun and enjoyable time now so your child will love gardening later.