Spring is in the air! It’s a refreshing time to get back outside with your children.
If you don’t yet have a garden, you may want to consider it. The health benefits to gardening are endless — increased physical and outdoor activity (hello, vitamin D!), as well as reduced stress and healthier eating, just to name a few.
Children also enjoy participating in family gardening. They love getting their hands dirty while planting or searching for worms and other insects. They feel proud of the end result from their labor — beautiful blooming flowers, bushes or trees and delicious fresh fruits, vegetables or herbs.
It’s a great opportunity for families to take a break from jobs and other activities to enjoy some peace in nature together. Caring for a garden is an excellent way to bond together, build a child’s confidence and create memories for years to come.
Here are some fun ways to plan for your outdoor garden this season to make it a family tradition for years to come.
Grow Plants From Seeds:
Growing plants from seeds is a fun way for kids to learn how plants grow and also how to care for them. There are many books available at your local library to help with this task. One of our favorite books is “How a Seed Grows” by Helene J. Jordan.
Select and Grow Fresh Ingredients:
Allow each family member to select his or her favorite fruit, vegetable or herb to plant and care for throughout the season.
If you want to grow fresh foods but aren’t sure which fruits, vegetables or herbs to plant in your garden, a great way to decide is by selecting recipes together with fresh garden ingredients. Once you gather your harvest, cooking together is wonderful family bonding.
Create a Mother’s Day Perennial Garden:
Allow your children to select a perennial flower or plant to add to your garden each year for Mother’s Day. Pick a location and plant it together. As these bloom every year, you can reminisce on those special memories.
Snip Fresh Flowers for Indoor Bouquets:
Once your perennial flowers begin to grow, you and your children can create your own indoor bouquets together or deliver them to friends and family to brighten their day.
Create a Compost Pile or Bin:
Managing a compost bin or pile is a great way to learn what happens to garbage after it leaves our homes. The finished product can be used to grow new plants later. DIY compost bins can be found on the Internet.
Decorate Your Garden:
Add items like painted rocks, planters, signs or handmade stepping-stones that you have created as a family to your outdoor garden areas. Add children’s painted handprints or footprints to pots or allow your children to paint pots themselves for fun memories and keepsakes (be sure to protect the paint from outside elements with an outdoor clear coat). Many local craft stores have stepping stone kits with all the necessary items and instructions.
Add a Rain Gauge to Your Garden:
Rain gauges allow you and your children to measure precipitation daily. You can use this information to track the affects precipitation has on your garden in a journal. This activity can help determine how much water your garden needs and how often.
Start a Garden
If you are starting a garden for the first time this May, it is important to determine which types of plants are best in your yard. Here are some factors to consider:
- Observe your soil — Good versus poor drainage, compost-rich versus dry. Be sure to purchase and lay some new nutrient-rich soil for your plants while planting.
- The amount of sunlight and shade your garden will receive.
- The types of critters (like deer, squirrels, rabbits, birds, bugs, etc.) that wander into your yard, as they may need to be eluded by gates, nets or fences.
- Determine companion plants — some plants will help other plants grow — for example, tomatoes grow nicely near cucumbers and basil and two different varieties of blueberry bushes yield larger fruit by cross pollination. For your first time, it is recommended to start small with your garden, maybe 3-4 plants at most, so that you don’t feel overwhelmed.
- This time of year, many vegetables (cucumbers, squash, corn and beans), most herbs, and some flowers such as daisies and morning glories can be planted in the ground as seeds. Others would be better to transport into your garden as mature plants — tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce, onions, varieties of lavender and sage, berry bushes, daffodils and bee balm — so that they have enough time to mature in your yard within the growing season.
Most seed packets, plant tags and garden centers will recommend the ideal planting time. If you are ever in doubt, stop by or call your local gardening center with questions.
Kristen Antosh is a writer and blogger at Momgineering the Future, momgineeringthefuture.com