Go Wild and Grow Wild
There’s something magical about gardening. It starts with a lump of dirt and a tiny seed and ends with something beautiful—or tasty (or both!). It has the power to draw indoor kids outdoors and help super busy bees slow down. Gardening encourages kids to be responsible. It can even get reluctant kids to try new, healthy foods. And (shhh, don’t tell them) they’ll learn something in the process. Green is good!
While parents appreciate a leafy hosta or an unusual fern, flowers and edibles offer the best payoff for kids. Even if you don’t have much outdoor space, you can let your kids take over a small border garden or simply plant in containers. “Bucket gardening” is a great intro project for kids.
Get started by visiting a local garden shop or nursery. The staff there will know what plants will thrive where you live. Seed packets are usually quite inexpensive, so you can let kids look at the pictures on the packets and pick the ones they’re most excited about. Or you can start with seedlings for near-instant gratification—and then consider saving seeds from this year’s crop for next year. Seed Matters (a project supported by CLIF Bar) has resources to show you how to do this.
If you want to grow veggies, we suggest peas and cucumbers since they’re quick growers. Seeds for corn and beans are big, making them easy for little hands to plant. If you grow cherry tomatoes, kids can pluck the ripe fruit right off the plant to eat. And did you know carrots—a very kid-friendly root vegetable—come in red, orange, yellow, and purple varieties? Or that you can grow a celery plant in a dish of water? Better yet, when you grow your own food, you can start with organic seeds and take care of the plants without pesticides.
Most kids are fruit fans, so consider “farming” some of your own. Strawberries grow well in pots, and blackberry and blueberry bushes make an attractive addition to your yard. Apple, pear, peach, and plum lovers who want to try planting their own trees will have to have a lot more patience.
Don’t forget to plant flowers to brighten up your garden with splashes of color. They come in just about every shade under the sun, so your child can choose his or her favorites. Sunflowers add lots of drama (they can grow to 8 feet tall!), and marigolds, snapdragons, and geraniums are easy to grow from seeds. Even buying annuals and planting them in pots or flower beds at home can be a fun project for kids—since it involves digging, watering, and dirt.
So get on out there and get dirty. Your kids are going to love their green thumbs!