Many adults find gardening to be a very rewarding and fun activity to enjoy on a regular basis, as there are so many benefits to receive from gardening, both physically and mentally. But going outside and getting your hands dirty isn’t just for adults, kids can absolutely join in and have a blast too!
What’s So Great About Gardening Anyways?
1. Getting Active
Gardening is a wonderful way to stay active and get in some moderate exercise. Just from digging holes and planting seeds, you can experience quite the workout. Not to mention, plants need regular watering and some maintenance, such as weeding, pruning, and of course, harvesting!
2. Stress Relief
Focusing on one task at a time and dedicating yourself to creating a thriving garden is almost meditative. This is very good for adults who need to decompress sometimes, but also great for kids who have a hard time finishing tasks or staying focused. It may be a bit tough for some kids initially, but in time most kids can learn the value of dedicating one’s time and attention to gardening.
Most adults already have a lot of responsibilities in their lives, from being a parent, to working a job, and everything that comes with being a grown up. Most kids, however, need a little help learning about responsibility from the adults in their lives, more often than not, their parents. Plants rely on people to make sure they get enough water, nutrients, and care, so through gardening, kids can learn how to take care of another living thing and understand that their actions are important and needed.
4. Science in Real Life
Kids learn about science in school, from tv, and books, which are all valuable resources, but gardening is a wonderful opportunity for kids to see science in action. They can experience watching a seed sprout, then slowly get bigger and grow leaves, and eventually produce fruit, vegetables, herbs, etc. Changes will occur before their very eyes just by giving plants water everyday and making sure they have a good environment to grow in.
5. Self Confidence
Gardening is a labor of love that, after a good season and some hard work, can result in some fresh and tasty food. A lot of work goes into gardening between planting a seed and picking the resulting crops, and that is something to be proud of. Without dedication and effort, there would be no tomatoes or strawberries to pick. Kids and adults alike can really benefit from the self confidence that gardening can provide after meeting their goals and reaping the rewards!
6. Love of Nature
Going outside everyday and tending to a garden can help kids learn to appreciate nature and the living things all around us. They can see what plants need to thrive and understand how ecosystems work. This can open up kids’ minds to thinking critically about the environment or what local plants and trees need to stay healthy. A garden can even invite some harmless insects or birds that kids can enjoy interacting with, like butterflies, lady bugs, and hummingbirds.
When the time comes to enjoy what you’ve grown, there are a few fun ways to enjoy it! Picking fruits and vegetables from the vine and eating them while they’re at their freshest is a unique experience you can only have with a garden. They’re something really special about taking a bite of something from your harvest on a warm day under the sun. Another great way to dig into your crops is by planning out a meal or recipe using mostly what you’ve grown! Your food will be even tastier knowing that you put in so much effort to grow your ingredients by yourself.
Ready to Get Started?
1. Start Small
If you’re a beginner gardener, start small. It’s better to be happy with what you produce in a small garden than be frustrated by all the time and effort a big one demands. It’s also best to learn a few gardening basics before investing tons of time and money into this new hobby. You’ll get a feeling for how much time gardening takes and you’ll find out how much you and your kids like spending time outside planting, watering, and weeding. You’ll also learn how much produce you and your family can eat over the course of a summer.
A good size for a beginner’s vegetable garden is 6×6 feet. Select up to five types of vegetables to grow, and plant a few of each type. You’ll get plenty of fresh produce for your summer meals, and it will be easy to keep up with the chores. Growing vegetables in containers is also a good way to start out. With them you don’t even need a yard, a sunny deck or balcony should work fine.
2. Pick What to Plant
Pay close attention to the description on the seed packet, tag, or label. Each variety of fruit or vegetable comes with certain characteristics. Some produce smaller plants ideal for containers or small gardens. Other varieties offer qualities like being resistant to pests, strong against cold weather, or needing little sunlight, etc. Start by choosing fruits and veggies you like to eat, then look into their sizes and care needs.
Planting both cool and warm weather vegetables will give you a harvest of vegetables and herbs continuously throughout the spring, summer, and fall. In early spring, grow lettuce, greens, peas, radishes, carrots, and broccoli. After you’ve harvested your cool weather crops, plant hot weather favorites, such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and herbs. In fall, you can harvest potatoes, cabbage, and kale.
3. Where to Put Your Garden
Like all plants, vegetables need the sun! The fastest growing vegetables need full sun (at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight a day) without blockage from trees or anything else that could get in the sun’s way. That’s why you won’t have much success if you plant sun loving vegetables in shady spaces. If your yard provides partial shade, plant vegetables and herbs that can thrive in those conditions, such as lettuce, kale, chard, spinach, chives, cilantro, parsley, and thyme. Root vegetables like carrots, radishes, and beets might also work if that spot gets at least 4 hours of direct sunlight a day. Or if you have a sunny patio, switch to container gardening. That way you can put sun loving vegetables and herbs such as tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, basil, dill, and rosemary, where they’ll do well.
4. Give Plants the Nutrients They Need
For the best harvest, your vegetable garden needs the best soil you can give it. Rich, healthy soil is something you know when you feel it! It’s easy to dig and drains well. You want soil that is dark, crumbly, and full of life. Luckily, no matter what the texture may be, all soil can be improved over time by adding some nutrients or additions that may be necessary.
To prepare your soil for planting, spread any needed additions like compost or fertilizer and work them into the soil with a tiller or spade. Avoid stepping on freshly tilled soil or you’ll compact it and undo all your hard work. Then rake the surface smooth and water thoroughly. Allow the bed to rest several days before you plant so the soil additions can do their work.
5. Keep Pests Away
Weeds compete with your vegetables for light, water, and nutrients, so it’s important to keep them to a minimum. Pluck out any pesky weeds once you notice them to give your plants a fighting chance!
Some big leaf munching offenders are deer. They are great at jumping over fences and getting to those tasty plants, so if you have any of them around, be sure to plant where they can’t reach or build a fence high enough to keep them out. It can also be helpful to extend the bottom of the fence deep into the ground to discourage any critters that like to burrow. And for any large insects you may notice on your plants like caterpillars, be sure to pluck them off and get them out of there. They love to nibble holes in fresh green leaves!
6. Be on the Lookout
Do your best to notice any changes in your plants. For example, if the leaves start to change in color, drop off, or wither, you may not be watering your plants enough, or they may be getting a bit too much sun. If you notice little holes or marks on your plants, you may have some pests around. Try to look out for any signs of change in your plants and try to find out what the problem might be. This may sound like a lot of trouble, but as you continue to garden, you’ll learn more and more about plants and become very knowledgeable!
Now you have everything you need to know before starting a garden! Lots of fun and learning are surely in store for you and your family this spring and summer!