In chatting with a family member who lives up north, it seems as though spring really is just around the corner! It might be too early to start planting in the ground where you are, but the second half of February is a great time to start planning your garden, particularly if you want your kids to be involved! Your children can reap so many benefits from learning to plant a garden.
Here are just a few:
- Fresh, locally grown produce, which they might be pretty excited about eating, after having raised it from seed (or seedling).
- A ready-made chore. From planting to regular watering to weeding, this gives idle hands something to do.
- Lots of science lessons. Kids will learn which crops grow best where you live, and will see firsthand the process of growing veggies, from start to finish. They will also learn how to deal with garden pests and how to tell the difference between a weed and a plant that you want to have in your garden.
- All sorts of math lessons: comparing seed prices, measuring between rows, using geometry to build a raised bed, and maybe selling some of the surplus and figuring out the profit… it’s all math, and it’s all hands-on.
This time of year, most of you will be just starting to plan your gardens. While those in the South might be ready to start planting now or soon, the ground is too hard and frost is still a possibility for another several weeks in most of the country. The first thing you need to do is to identify your plant hardiness zone, to determine when you can place seedlings in the ground. Since most plants take six to eight weeks to start in the house (but some take as few as three weeks, and some take as long as twelve, so read your seed packets!), it might be time for you to do that now, or you may need to wait another month or so. If you live in Florida, like I do, then it may be a little late to start seeds, and you might opt to buy plants from your local nursery to put directly in the ground over the next several weeks.
Gather cardboard egg cartons or small cups to start your seeds. This is something that even the smallest kids can participate in. Spoon in the potting soil, then let them poke holes and drop seeds in. Show them how to water, but not over-water, the seeds, and place them in a sunny spot. Within a few days, you’ll start to see pale green seedlings poking through, and you can enjoy the excitement in your kids’ eyes!
This is a good time to read up on potential garden sizes and designs, if you don’t already have beds made, and which plants might do better in containers than in beds. Check out books at your local library, or talk to some avid gardeners in your area. You can spend hours of quality time with your kids, poring over articles and books, and sketching out where you want to plant everything in your garden!
Over the next few weeks, we’ll have more tips for gardening with children, and information on how to keep them active and involved in the process.
Do you have any special tips to share?