Fostering a life long love of gardening in kids starts with creating fond memories of sun, dirt, and growing things. There’s plenty of time for teaching techniques and assigning weeding chores once they see the value for themselves, so throw away those intense gardening books and detailed plot plans and spend some time thinking about the view from 3 feet tall. Here are some fun ideas for your next planting project—it’s never too late to get started!
- Gardening can be so much more than just rows or squares. Think 3D. Think tall, round, wide, and colorful. Stack poles together and tie at the top to form a pole-bean teepee. Use chicken wire or hog panels to frame arches for tomato tunnels kids can crawl through rather than traditional cages.
- Create a garden playroom by growing sunflowers or corn in a large square, leaving the center hollow.
- Think outside the row and use quick growers like radishes or onions to spell the child’s name, initials, or a short message such as “hi” or “love u.”
- Layout garden areas in different shapes like hearts, circles, or even simple flowers or rainbows.
- Let kids decorate scarecrows or paint foil pie plates and string them on fishing line to create colorful “fences” to keep birds and rabbits away.
- Kids are intrigued by extremes. Try growing really big plants like classic Sunflowers or giant pumpkins, or really small plants like cherry tomatoes or Grape Hyacinths. Sprinkle in textured plants like fuzzy Lambs Ear; fragrant plants like mint, sage, or lavender; and surprising varieties of old favorites like purple carrots, blue Indian corn, or striped beets.
- And don’t overlook the concept of theme gardens. Theme gardens can be particularly exciting for older children that are able to help choose the theme, layout the garden plan, and pick the plants or varieties to include. Themes can be as simple as a red, white, and blue July 4th garden or butterfly garden. Older kids may enjoy something more complex such as a biblical garden based on plants mentioned in the Bible or a four season garden with plants blooming all year round. Michigan’s 4H Children’s Garden project includes 56 different theme gardens, including storybook gardens, crayon gardens, pizza gardens, butterfly gardens, prairie gardens, and ethnic gardens.
More great ideas can be found at the National Gardening Association’s, Kids Gardening site, and at www.gardening-with-kids.com.