Looking for a fun, educational gardening project to engage your kids? Well, look no further than the great dish garden! Not only does it give children an opportunity to design and play in the dirt, there are plenty of teaching points to excite their blossoming curiosities.

Planting dish garden preparation

Set up a good spot for your family to plant their gardens, and lay everything out before beginning the project.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Manning

Planting dish garden

Show your kids how to properly plant their selections at soil level.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Manning

Adding finishing touches to dish garden

Kids can add pebbles to cover the potting mix or use figurines as finishing touches to their gardens.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Manning

Showing off dish gardens

The dish gardens are complete, and boy are the kids proud of them!

Photo Credit: Jennifer Manning

Watering dish gardens

Display your kids’ gardens proudly in your yard, and show your children how to water them properly after planting.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Manning

Getting your kids involved in this planting project from start to finish gives them a greater sense of pride in their finished product. And each step can be used to teach them about the joy of gardening – from the basics of container gardening to plant selection and care.

Begin with a trip to your local garden center. Let the kids pick out a container. Show them the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot and explain why they’re important. This is a great time to talk about proper drainage and suggest adding pieces of broken terra-cotta pots – or even a coffee filter – to the bottom of the container to prevent the soil from stopping up the drainage holes.

Next, ask your kids what they think needs to go in the pot first. While “dirt” may be the most popular answer, you can explain to them why it’s important to choose potting soil. Then walk them over to the appropriate aisle so they can see all the different options available. Many of the newer potting mixes include extra goodies, like fertilizer or water-absorbing polymers. (This is also the perfect time to talk about what plants need to live, and why fertilizer and proper watering are so important.)

The next step is what the kids have been waiting for: picking out some plants. Ask them if they want their container to sit in the sun or shade, then explain why they need to choose plants with similar light requirements for that exact spot.

Talk about the concept of creating a theme garden, too. Your kids can select similar types of plants for their dish garden, like herbs or cool carnivorous plants, to build on that particular theme. You should also talk a bit about design concepts when picking out plants. You can teach your children about putting a taller plant in the center for height, adding “filler” plants, and picking a few that’ll spill over the sides. For a finishing touch, purchase a small bag of decorative rocks, pebbles or moss to cover the soil.

If your kids would like to add a personal touch, consider buying a small ceramic frog, bird or other critter to add to their garden. These extras just make the container a little more fun – especially for the little ones.

Once you get home, prepare the space to plant up the dish gardens. Lay everything out, and help your kids prepare their containers with the drainage materials and soil. Show them how they can arrange (and rearrange) their selections before planting them to find the best design for the container. After they’re got their design finalized, it’s time to start planting!

As you probably already know, getting the plants out of the containers they come in can be a little tricky sometimes, so be sure to show the kids how to gently pull them out. Then show your children how to place their plants in the pot at the appropriate level – not too deep and not above the soil line. Once all the plants are in, let your kids add those finishing touches of moss, pebbles and figurines, then help them water-in the plants. (Explain how they’ll know if the pot drains properly by looking for water running out of the bottom.)

While this project is a bit of time commitment – with running to the garden center and explaining everything so your kids understand – it sure is worth it! Not only will your children end up with lovely container gardens to give as gifts or enjoy on their own, they will have gained some basic gardening knowledge. And with that seed planted, the kids can grow a love of gardening that’s sure to keep on blooming for the rest of their lives.