• T.j. Johnson

Teaching Gardening to Children

Updated: Jul 8, 2021

Gardening can teach children many valuable life lessons like healthy eating, generosity, planning and patience.

Children are full of curiosity about the world around them and gardening can not only teach children about the cycle of life, it can teach them valuable life lessons that they will carry with them into adulthood.

“A garden is full of magic and learning. It's the place where childhood dreams are explored and harvested”

Cultivating Good Habits

Planning is an important part of gardening. Keeping a journal is a good place to start. Deciding on plants and setting a time schedule to work, water, and maintain the garden is a necessity. A good journal will remind your child of planting dates and harvesting dates and it will make the process so much more fun for them. Maintaining a healthy garden begins with cultivating good habits. There is a wealth of learning in preparation and planning. Your child will feel like they are in charge of the process and this will teach them planning skills.

Starting Small

You do not need a large yard to teach your child to garden. Starting small is the best way to begin. Children can start their gardening in containers and pots until you are ready to move to a yard location. Once you have decided to plant directly in the soil, choose an area of the yard that matches your desired plants. Some plants need full sun, some need partial sun, and some need shade. Be sure that you choose an area that is accommodating to the plants you choose.

Know Your Zone

Bastrop County is in plant hardiness zone 8B which has a long growing season with generally hot summers and short mild to cold winters. Most vegetable and herbs varieties will grow well. The last frost date is at the start of April and first frost date is at the start of December. Teaching your child about harvesting zones will give them a deeper understanding about which plants thrive in which environments. You can find out more information on the United States Department of Agriculture website at www.plants.usda.gov

Choosing Plants

Let your child be the decision maker on which plants to grow, based on his or her interests. Cherry tomatoes are a good starter plants because they are a tasty snack and generally produce fruit earlier than larger tomatoes. Leaf crops is another option, lettuce and spinach tend to grow quickly and can be harvested more than once. If you're looking for an early spring harvest, radishes, peas, and carrots are the way to go.

Fall is the ideal time to plant giant pumpkins for carving, or making delicious sugar pumpkins pies! If your child likes flowers, consider some quick-blooming annuals, like snapdragons, marigolds, or petunias. Summer is a productive time for planting beans, broccoli, brokali, loose-headed and tight-headed cabbage, chives, maize, soybean sweet corn, and tomatoes. Nothing teaches children patience like waiting for their plants to grow!

Local Growers

There are three local growers in Bastrop County where young gardeners can go to buy plants, seeds, soil, and gardening material. It is better to purchase plants from local growers because they are knowledgeable about plants which grow best in your area.

Graystone Gardens in Bastrop www.graystonegardenstx.com

Bloomers Garden Center in Elgin www.bloomerselgin.com

Grandma's House Garden Nursery in Smithville www.grandmashousesmithvilletx.com

Have the Right Tools

Every gardener needs the right tools for the job. Help your child choose the right shovel, hoe, garden rake, and pair of gardening gloves. A kneeling pad is also a good idea for gardening. Gardening kits for children are readily available at big box stores, gardening stores, or on sites like Amazon.

Enjoy the Fruits of your Labor

Harvesting and eating the plants from your own garden is the most exciting time for any gardener!

Melissa Middlebrook with Graystone Gardens said, "Young gardeners, who are not normally vegetable eaters, will almost always try fruits and vegetables which they grow in their own gardens."

Let your child help prepare meals with their fresh fruits and vegetables. This will spark an interest in finding recipes for their harvest; creating a lesson in following directions and beginning a life-long journey of maintaining healthy eating habits. You can also teach your child generosity by allowing them to share their garden bounty with family or friends, or donate to a food pantry.

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