It’s little wonder that containers are one of the best ways to introduce kids to gardening. For starters, a potted garden can be matched perfectly to a child’s small size. And starting children off on simpler scale is a terrific way to build their confidence and interest in America’s No. 1 pastime.
Gardening in containers teaches children responsibility, as well as provides them with spectacular rewards and the potential for a wonderful lifetime hobby.
Photo Credit: ©2000 Dolezal Publishing/Doug Dealey
A scaled-down gardener’s kit is as much fun for boys and girls as a quickly forgotten toy or stuffed animal, and they’ll treasure the tools as something of their own.
Photo Credit: ©2000 Dolezal Publishing/John M. Rickard
Unlike requests to “help me weed” or “water the plants,” container gardening gives youngsters the whole plant-care picture rather than just another chore. Most children ages 4 and up can start from the very beginning, with seeds or small plant starts, and nurture a young plant to maturity, gaining a lifelong fascination with gardening – maybe even sharing an interest with you well into their grown-up years.
Indeed, there’s no age limit to gardening. Preschoolers can plant grass seeds in hollowed-out eggshells or sunflowers in small paper cups, then watch (fascinated) as their plantings sprout on the windowsill, grow large enough to transplant – then spurt with growth to full size. Older kids can help their younger brothers and sisters transfer plants to larger pots. (Heck, this simple task gives them a free pass to get their hands dirty on purpose!) Preteens can cultivate their own blend of colorful flowers or take a turn at vegetable gardening – where a single pot can keep the project close at hand and encourage them get their 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day! Teens can even include their own projects in your larger garden scheme, giving them a real sense of participation, involvement and accomplishment.
A trip to your local garden center is a great place to start. Take the kids or grandchildren with you to pick out everything, from potting soil mixes, plants and containers to tools, watering cans and accessories. (It’s as good as a trip to the proverbial candy store to today’s youngsters, who are raised on electronic games and television.)
Once you get your purchases home, teach your children the patience that gardening requires. For young kids, keep maintenance chores to a minimum. Make a calendar with tasks to keep them engaged, and remember to let them know about how long it will take for their flowers to appear. Whatever you do, reserve their garden projects for them alone: If a plant should die from neglect, it can still help teach them about responsibility.
Finally, remember to keep your children’s projects simple, yet challenging. Choose unusual plants that are native to your area and resistant to pests and diseases because you want to make sure they require little special care. If gardening is to become an interest you can share, the chances of success will promote the activity, and the bloom will be on the rose! Gardening, for children, is a ticket to the world of ecology and biology, where growing things matter. And it’s a great way to “grow” something that you can share with them for a lifetime!