A garden can offer many educational opportunities for your children and will give the family something profitable to do together. Your kids garden should be simple so that they can be the primary care-givers, teaching responsibility and supplying confidence.
- Involve everyone from the beginning. Take a trip to the library and check out children's books on gardening.
- Sell the idea. Growing pumpkins for Halloween, attracting butterflies and making a scarecrow are all activities that might excite your kids.
- Have a planning meeting after everybody does their "research," and make an inspiration board from a poster, recording ideas, drawing diagrams, etc. Cut out and paste pictures from gardening magazines that best represent each person's dream garden.
Step 1- Design the Garden
In the spirit of education, choose a shape and talk geometry. Divide the shape into four equal parts. If using a square, ask the kids to determine how many square feet the garden will be. If a circle, then discuss percentage. Do we want to keep the garden in two halves, or do we want 25 percent of the garden to be designated for flowers?
Step 2- Choose the Plants
Four equal parts of a garden will give you four different categories. If working with small children, just divide the garden in half, and choose two categories. Find out what plants grow best in your area to help narrow down the choices. Discuss and choose from the following options:
- Pumpkin patch
- Butterfly garden (sunflowers, zinnias)
- Bouquet garden (dahlias, zinnias, sunflower)
- Salad garden (lettuce tomatoes radishes)
- Zen rock garden (no plants but this would be a fun segment)
- Herb garden
- Color garden (organize based on color, green for the veggies, orange for the pumpkins, and different colored flowers for the other parts)
Step 3- Preparing the Patch
Kill the grass and weeds by digging up and removing in shovelfuls or cover the grass with newspaper and dirt to block out the sun. Plant over the newspaper. Till the soil with a rototiller and work in brown and green compost. Test the soil to determine ph level. Discuss results with kids. If the soil is too acidic, add limestone. If more alkaline, add sulfur. This is a great science lesson, and if you can get your kids' teachers involved, your work level will decrease. Find out if your kids can bring samples to test in school.
Step 4- Planting
For small children, you may want to buy young plants and transplant. If the family is ready for the challenge, buy seeds and bulbs and read up carefully on how to plant. Many vegetables, like lettuces and radishes, will sprout very quickly, giving quick gratification for a beginning gardener.
Step 5-Extracurricular Activities
- Chart watering and weeding times and weekly growth on a painted piece of plywood staked next to the garden.
- Make a scarecrow from two broomsticks, old clothes, and hay.
- Make concrete stepping stones to divide the segments of the garden. Kids can etch their names or leave handprints into the wet cement and decorate with beads, seashells and pebbles.
- Host garden birthday parties.
A garden will provide your children with endless hands-on learning projects and help to cultivate in them a love of nature.