This spring, turn your children into little gardeners. It's surprisingly satisfying for all — not to mention the bounty you'll get from a family garden!
Gardening makes for great family adventure and experimentation. March is the perfect time to begin planning your garden. Here are some family tips to help get you and yours started:
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Browse through gardening books and magazines at the local library. Think about vegetables or flowers you’d like to grow and learn about their growing habits. Visit a local nursery with your children — the staff will be glad to answer your questions about proper soil, watering and growing habits.
SEEDS OR SMALL PLANTS?
In early spring, seeds can be germinated indoors to ready them for planting. Seed starter kits are inexpensive, but small pots or empty egg cartons work just as well. Fill your containers with potting soil, water lightly each day and set in a southern, sunny window. The earlier you start this method, the more “sprout” you’ll have for planting. An easy way to ensure success is by purchasing small basic plants to simply pop into the ground.
MAKE YOUR PLANS
Sit down with graph paper and a pencil to make a sketch of what you’re planting and where. Measure the space you have to work with and divide it up for the optimal amount of usage and variety. Use gardening books to check for companion plants (some plants will not grow well next to others). If you have the space, divvy up small 3’ by 4’ sections for different family members and let them design their own space. For instance, your 6-year-old can be in charge of green beans in her space; your 10-year-old can man the peppers. Enjoy creating your garden on paper … and then get ready to transfer your imagination to the soil!
LET CHILDREN BEGIN WITH SIMPLE TASKS
Wear comfortable clothes just right for getting dirty. Everyone should don gardening gloves and have tools ready. Children love digging in the soil, and kid-sized tools are available in hardware stores. Start by digging up your soil, breaking up lumps of clay and removing rocks. Even very young children can be surprisingly helpful when it comes to this part — they love removing stones and can even reserve some for rock painting. Later, without the children, sprinkle a commercial fertilizer on your amended soil and then let the kids water it well. Let it sit for a day before planting. As you prepare for gardening, remember that children can dig, rake, hoe and use sticks to mark off rows with strings. They also enjoy helping you label rows with the names of different vegetables or flowers.
READY TO GARDEN
Refer to your sketches and show family members how far apart plants need to be spaced. Dig the first example then let the kids have a go at it. When transplanting plants from pot to earth, be especially careful with roots. You will need plenty of patience, so remember that a child’s attention span is shorter than that of an adult. If gardening becomes drudgery, it’s time for a break. If only two plants get in the ground this time, then so be it!
I’ve never met a child who didn’t like to play with a garden hose. Watering plants can be a fun activity for all ages. Be sure to teach your children the proper amounts necessary and when the best time of day for watering is. Never water a garden in full sun or risk drying out their leaves; early morning or evening is a good time. Show children how to tell whether a plant needs water or not.
THINGS TO KNOW
The type of garden you choose to grow depends on individual tastes. Some people believe that if kids help grow vegetables they may be more inclined to eat them as well. With vegetables, after everything blooms you can share in the bounty and have a garden feast. But flower gardens are a good choice, too … in time, the entire family can learn to do both!
Help from Local Experts
Useful resources, tips and plenty of ideas to get inspiration for your garden!
Cincinnati Family Enrichment Center
513-591-2332 • theplaceforfamilies.com
During warmer weather, the CFEC offers The PeaWee Patch — little ones will help plant seeds, protect their plants from weeds, and provide water for their growing flowers, fruits and veggies, all while learning to work together. Each class opens with music, a story and a nature activity, then time in the PeaWee Patch. CFEC also offers a KinderGARDEN workshop on a weekend (check site for date) to help kick off the gardening season.
Cincinnati Horticultural Society
513-677-2799 • cincinnatihorticulturalsociety.com
The Cincinnati Horticultural Society is home to the Cincinnati Flower Show, taking place this year April 14 – 19. Plenty of activities are in store, including a Family Day, a Mother-Daughter tea and a Children’s Potting Program. The Society also offers children’s classes throughout the summer in the Fresh Air School.
Civic Garden Center of Greater Cincinnati
513-221-0981 • civicgardencenter.org
This non-profit horticultural resource is designed to build community through gardening and environmental education. Monthly family classes for families with children ages 5 – 15 begin in April and cost $5 per person. Advance registration is required.
Gorman Heritage Farm
513-563-6663 • gormanfarm.org
Gorman Heritage Farm is a working and educational farm in Evendale that offers events throughout the year, including such upcoming family programs like Introduction to Bird Watching (March 7), Cold Process Soap Making (March 10), Family Pizza Making Class (March 14), Healthy Smoothies 101 (March 21), and a School’s Out spring break camp (March 30).
Granny’s Garden School
513-324-2873 • grannysgardenschool.org
Granny’s Garden School has more than 100 vegetable gardens that are available for a small fee to school families and other members of the community through the Summer Harvester Program. Families harvest, replant and weed during the summer, maintaining the gardens so they are ready when students return in the fall. Favorite activities include the pick-a-bouquet club and tours of the gardens.
Green Acres Foundation
513-891-4227 • green-acres.org
Green Acres Foundation educates students in a variety of areas, including gardening, where participants can work with plants and explore the science behind the various stages of their life cycles. Summer programs for kids include such topics as Farm to Table and Garden Adventures.
Highfield Discovery Garden
513-521-7275 • greatparks.org
This 12-acre children’s garden features seven small areas to explore, including a Discovery Tree, the Frog & Toad Garden, the Butterfly Garden and more. Admission is $2 per person, or consider a Family Pass, which costs $40 for a family of four. This month, check out Signs of Spring on March 25 – 29 and learn all about blooming bulbs and sprouting seeds.
The Krohn’s current spring show, Falling Water Gardens, features landscape displays inspired by the works of architect Frank Lloyd Wright and remains on display through Sunday, March 22. On Sunday, March 1, families can join a Lego competition hosted by King Arthurs’ Court Toys — families work together to create a mission-style construction. Winners receive free passes to the upcoming Butterflies of the Philippines Show, and their Lego art will be put on display for visitors to enjoy!