We’re officially in gardening season. Now, my thumb isn’t as green as I’d like it to be, but I still enjoy it. I’ve grown everything from strawberries, jalapenos and tomatoes to purple heirloom peppers, green beans and carrots. We live in the city with a small, shaded back yard, which makes our garden pretty unimpressive. That’s why we transitioned to container gardening – where you grow plants in ceramic pots or canvas bags instead of in the ground. It saves water, results in fewer pest and weed issues, is a lot less work and actually yields some pretty high produce!
My 3.5-year-old has shown interest in gardening the last few months, so I thought I’d recruit her help! I got her a junior’s gardening kit, complete with a shovel, gloves and a canvas apron. Gardening, to me, is therapeutic and I’m excited we can share a hobby. However, toddlers can be impatient, messy and rough, so it’s important to lay out expectations before we start. I’ve come to terms that this year’s garden may not be immaculate or have the prettiest vegetables, but we’ll learn some important lessons along the way.
Here are 5 tips when starting container gardening with your toddler:
Container gardens have some nuances to them’ and often need to be watered twice a day. Before you venture into container gardening, ensure you not only know the peak planting zones and times, but also have the right kind of containers. Place containers where they will receive maximum sunlight and good ventilation. Incorporate your toddler in the decision making of picking out plants/containers, where to put them and how to prepare the soil for the seedling.
2. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Accept that things aren’t going to go right. Your toddler will put too many seeds in one hole and too close together. She’ll pick a strawberry before it’s ripened and rip up a vine thinking it’s a weed. She’ll throw a tantrum that she can’t water the plant 6 times a day. It’s ok, mama. Take a deep breath.
3. Keep it Simple
Try planting something hearty like tomatoes, zucchini and green beans and avoid harder to grow plants like broccoli, watermelon and eggplant. My recommendation is to buy them as seedlings, root divisions, or bulbs instead of starting them from the seed. Many vegetables are tricky to start from seeds, and others take a long time to mature.
4. Assign Tasks
Toddlers (usually) want to help in any way they can. Come up with a to-do list specifically for her– things like digging holes, filling pots, watering, picking ripe vegetables, carrying the watering can, holding a hose and putting them into a colander are perfect for a budding gardener. Save the more delicate things like weeding, removing damaged limbs, tending to drainage, etc. for mom. That way the message in the garden is always “yes, you can help!”
5. Eat What You Grow
There is nothing better than seeing your hard work come to fruition. Whether you’re picking a few crisp green beans as a snack or harvesting a bucket of tomatoes for a yummy Tomato Basil soup, your toddler will learn from your habits. She will not only feel a sense of pride that she grew these things, but she’ll also benefit from healthier eating and enjoy the independence of snagging a homegrown snack.
What are your favorite gardening hacks with kids?
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