At our boys’ school they have garden time every week, which is a small farm run on the back of the school. The high school & junior high also have their own farm just down the road. More schools are doing this, but most children in the US will never have a chance to dig into soil and learn how, and why plants grow – and to eat those healthy vegetables, fruits and berries! Our boys love garden time, and it spills into our life at home on the farm. March is the month when they are in the beds helping get ready for the season.
With so many children out of school currently due to C-19, and the Western Hemisphere turning towards Spring, building a garden is something all of us should try if we can. Even in a city small pots in a window can grow dwarf peas and tomatoes. Gardening calms the mind, it gets people outside in the clean air (good for lungs). encourages exercise of both body and mind, but also…it gives hope and something to look forward to daily as they wait for seeds to sprout and climb. Growing an edible landscape for children was an early post about what we did for our younger boys, and what got us going.
Gardening doesn’t have to be an overwhelming project, where one rips out their entire yard (but that is actually a good idea, and we did it at two homes in the suburbs). Below are some projects and ideas we have done over the years in our gardens (and now our farm).
The basics of growing in Zones 7 to 8. Many who read our website live in similar grow zones, so I hope this can help you!
A favorite project for seedlings is to use paper egg carton trays. Children will love doing this.
Maybe you are considering picking up a cheap pop up greenhouse? To keep plants warm in till spring? I have used many of them over the years and here are some great tips on getting a long life out of them – and not becoming a kite in the wind. Children love working in them, and helping you build it.
If you live where you cannot dig into the ground, or the ground plain sucks (much suburb land is this way, as they take off the top soil, sell it, then pack the land and flatten it), here are a couple methods that are tried and true. Ask on neighborhood Facebook pages if anyone has used supplies and will let you pick them up, off their porch or driveway. There is always someone with an old worn out kiddy pool for example…
The kiddy swimming pool raised bed is great for small yards and even on concrete patios.
Let’s talk raised garden beds.
Raised beds out of concrete blocks is a very, very cheap option (often a $1 a brick at Home Depot). Some will argue about concrete dust, however these bricks won’t rot and last near on forever.
You can build simple hoop houses to keep raised beds warmer to start growing now.
As for the soil? Most areas have delivery if you buy a truckload delivered, which yes, is a lot of soil – but if you want to grow a garden, you will use it. Many of these places will take payment over the phone and deliver on your lawn or driveway, and is great for social distancing. Otherwise, for bags of soil, hit up the local hardware or nursery very early or late in the day to avoid crowds.
Once you figure out where and how the kids can garden, it is time to think about seeds, which you may or may not have on hand. Old seeds are still often quite viable, even 3 to 5 years old. Just sow more in case you have a lower germination. Better to try than to toss. If you don’t have seeds, order them now online. Shipping is fast (and with Baker Creek Seeds, which are all heirloom, the shipping is free).
What are our favorite seed companies? We wrote a post on it awhile back. I tend to buy most of our seeds from regional companies – heck we even buy from a local seed grower about 2 miles away on our island. Regional seeds will often grow better. Having said that, while I prefer heirloom seeds because I can save seeds, F1 hybrid seeds are great for areas needing shorter grow seasons. For those I buy from Ed Hume seeds online.
I’d suggest keeping the seed choices simple for children: 1 or so from each main category of each kind of veggie. It’s easy to go crazy as seeds are very affordable. The worst is? Take your excess seed packets and seal them in a mason jar to keep fresh. Choose dwarf varieties as they grow faster, and keeps their attention. Waiting 8 weeks for a seed to germinate will bore anyone – I know, my strawberry seeds take 8 to 12 weeks! Where as a dwarf pea might take a week or less to pop up. The newer dwarf tomato plants are great to grow, we grew two types last year – minimal space needed, pot friendly and no staking needed!
Looking for a cheap way to build trellis for big beans? This easy to do project makes a great living for come summer:
One of the more fun, but long projects the boys and I did was to grow wheat. It teaches a lot, including a side of patience.
If you have old plant saucers or even unwanted dishes, consider having the children make bee baths, which bees, butterflies and even hummingbirds will enjoy. No need to go shop, use rocks they find (wash off dirt first) and if they have marbles, ask them to donate them to the bath. Gnome gardens are also fun to build!
Good luck and to good growing!