Guest Post By Megan Neary
There are few things as rewarding as gardening with your child! The educational and nutritional opportunities are endless. Teaching your child where food comes from is a powerful lesson. Here are a few things to consider before planning your garden!
Think about the size of your garden. When you are just beginning a new garden it is best to start small. Have a plan in mind to expand your garden after you have completed a growing season. If the thought of removing sod for an in ground garden is overwhelming, consider starting a container or raised bed garden.
Be sure to include your child in this process! Have them help you measure out the plot of land you have in mind. If you are doing a raised bed garden they can help you measure where it will be placed in your yard. When buying containers talk to your child about the various sizes and why certain crops need larger containers to grow in.
The second thing to consider is sun exposure. It is important to choose an area for your garden that gets full sun exposure. Vegetables love sun and the more they have the better! This is a great opportunity to talk to your child about what plants need in order to survive. Have your child help you pick an area of your yard that would be a good spot to grow crops. Choose a day where you and your child can check on the amount of sun your yard gets. Are there spots that receive morning sun but afternoon shade? Work with your child to decide the best spot for your garden to thrive!
Next, think about the type of soil you have in your area. Rocky soil is hard to cultivate so a raised bed or container garden might be better if you have this type of soil. Find a spot in your yard and dig a hole with your child. Talk with them about the type of soil you have and the type of garden that would work best for your location.
Next, think about how you will maintain your garden. Consider how much time you are willing to put into your garden. Will you be able to water it each day in the summer? How often will you and your child be able to pick the crops you are growing? Be honest and realistic about the amount of time you can put into your garden. Many gardens start with a bang but then wither away under the intense August heat. Successful gardens are those in which irrigation and maintenance are carefully thought out. Can you tie your garden into an existing sprinkler system? Think about buying a hose that is set up with a timer to ensure your garden will receive the correct amount of water to keep it alive and well! Sit down with your child and develop a watering plan for the summer. Consider also adding it to your child’s chore list. A garden is a great way to instill responsibility in a child but be sure to include them in the process!
Finally, the fun part! Take your child with you to pick out the seeds you would like to plant. Be honest about what vegetables your family eats. In my own garden I grow the crops I know my children will consume. Think about your space constraints as well. Certain crops such as pumpkins need lots of space to grow. Involve your child in the process and ask them what types of vegetables they’d like to grow. Once you have decided on your crops, work together to plant the seeds. Be sure to follow the planting directions on the package!
Gardening with your child is a rewarding experience. Few things are as powerful as teaching our children where food comes from! Happy Gardening!
Megan has been teaching for 16 years. She has extended her love of gardening to her school where they have started their own garden.