I never would have thought it possible, but kids really can take care of a small garden, and enjoy it too! See my post Kids and Gardens and Spring, for a personal story.
Here are some tips that I have found helpful for gardening with my two oldest children (ages 4 and 6):
- Give them just a small area each and start with a small number of flowers. We did six flowers each. Anything more might be overwhelming.
- Annuals are great because they provide immediate and long lasting flowers, and you have the fun of choosing new varieties each year. Seeds take a long time for short attention spans, and perennials often don’t have a long flowering season, plus they don’t always look their best the first year.
- Kids love gear. Get them their own little kid-sized gardening gloves and they will be in heaven.
- For older children, or for a family project, you could try a themed garden. Here are some ideas:
- Butterfly Garden – There are lots of resources on the web regarding what to plant to attract butterflies (check out The Butterfly Site – Gardening or The Garden Helper) . Choreopsis, Butterfly Bush, and Cosmos are some good ones to start with. If you can, and you really want to get into it, try to identify butterflies that are native to your area and also include plants that those species of caterpillar like to eat. Make sure your garden is in a sunny spot as butterflies only feed in the sun. Also provide a flat rock for warmth (the butterflies will sit on it and keep warm). You could even raise some butterflies to release in your garden. We did that last year and I was just as fascinated (if not more) than my kids! Check out a Live Butterfly Garden to get all you need to raise some Painted Lady butterflies, including mail-away certificate for larvae.
- Scented Garden - Choose plants that have nice smells. Herbs, lavender, mint, and scented geraniums are good ones to start with. Be careful with the mint as it can be very invasive. If you don’t want it to take over your garden, then plant it in a pot. Just make a big enough hole, and stick in the plant, pot and all. It will look normal from the surface, but it won’t be able to spread. By the way, you can really have fun with scented geraniums. There are some that smell just like lemon, and even a variety that smells like chocolate (check out Scented Pelargoniums or Mountain Valley Growers for more info!).
- Fairy Garden – Pick fanciful flowers: I like snapdragons (show your kids how the flowers can open and close like bunny mouths) and pansies (they look like they have faces). Anything small, and dainty, and lacy is nice too. Queen Anne’s Lace, Alyssum, Lilly of the Valley. Your kids can decorate the garden with little fairy houses made of sticks and rocks, with perhaps some acorn cap bowls of water for the fairies to drink!
- Colored Gardens – Pick your child’s favorite color and plan a garden using all that color. You may or may not want to include white flowers or green foliage for contrast.
- Night Time Gardens – White gardens really stand out at night. Plus some flowers only open at night. Night Gardening, The Evening Garden, and Moon Garden Flowers are good resources.
- An Edible Flower Garden - Herbs are an obvious choice here, but also include Nasturtium, Borage and other edible flowers (research this carefully first since some flowers can be toxic if eaten!).
The possibilities are endless, so just have fun!
Of course, as with any garden, the key to success is two-fold: 1 – Speaking from experience, I know it is easy to go overboard at the nursery. Do not take on more than you and your kids can handle (making a list ahead of time and STICKING TO IT helps). 2 – Whatever you decide to do, be sure to pick plants that will do well in your climate and yard/soil conditions. For example, don’t pick shade-loving plants for a sunny spot, or sun-loving plants for a flowerbed in the shade. You will just set your family up for failure and disappointment. A local nursery or a book such as my favorite, Right Plant, Right Place: Over 1400 Plants for Every Situation in the Garden, can help with this.
Thanks to morguefile.com and photographer puravida.