Gardening with kids
Who is this page for?
Families who live in an urban environment and wish to experience urban gardening, and spend quality time with their kids, enjoying the wonderful experience and the endless value that comes with gardening. What do I want you to get from it? Family quality time + values + skills + memories for life - that's my motivation for writing my book. In short: let them grow. It takes only a few minutes every few days and a few dimes here and there, and you’ll get all the benefits I have mentioned above.
I believe that deep inside each of us hides a little farmer, boy or girl. The reality is that many of us live and grow up in big cities. We actually lose our connection to nature. It's a natural process we can't stop, and that's fine. But on the other hand, our farmer soul keeps kicking us from inside, reminding us that we still miss our land. And here is the "big secret": you definitely don't have to own a garden to grow flowers or even trees. You just need to want to do so, and the rest his history. Everyone, everywhere around the world can grow almost anything. Got just one small window? Great, you're in the game – it’s as simple as that.
To light the spark, you must first experience what it feels like to grow something. That alone will inspire and ignite your motivation - and your kids’. And please, let's begin with the understanding that we all have a green thumb. You can keep telling yourself the same story over again about how you killed the only plant your parents left you to care for when they went away for the weekend… but seriously, you do have it.
Make it happen
So, now that we’ve covered all that, let's understand that kids don't mind whatsoever what they're about to grow: flowers, herbs, vegetables - they really don't care. As long as they experience and take part in the growth process, it really doesn't matter. When you start, please avoid deciding for them what to grow. I’ll provide you with a list they can choose from later on. It's part of empowering them - let them choose what they want to grow first.
It's sprouting time, but don't run to the nearest nursery yet. I'm sure you have most of the following in your kitchen. One of the most inspiring moments is the moment when you wake up in the morning and you're watching the marvel of new growth appearing almost out of nowhere. Even the smallest plant starts its way somehow, and you are about to experience it yourself. So, let's start with germinating your first plant.
List of products
· Empty glass jar covered with mesh
· Mung beans
· Azuki beans
· Green peas
You don't need all these seeds - one type is enough.
So, what's next?
Choose just one type of seed from the list above and spread a few seeds in the bottom of the jar. You don't have to cover it all. Add water (room temperature) to cover the seeds by about 2-3 inches. It really doesn't matter how much water you use, as long as you soak the seeds - that's the idea. So, the water level must be higher than the seeds.
Put the jar in the kid's room closet or drawer for the night. Darkness is great for the seeds. When morning comes, take out the jar and look for new small seeds starting to sprout. Usually, it takes between 2 and 4 days, depending on the type of seed. But, the anticipation of something new is worth the wait. Ideally, replace the water every morning with fresh new water. That's what the mesh is for. If you don't have mesh, you can use an old shirt: just pour out the water through the mesh or fabric and add fresh new water. That's all there is to it. We’re not going to use those sprouts or plant them. This stage is just to give us the inspiration. Now it's time to move on to the real thing.
From seed to plant
Same process here, but this time it's the real deal. We're going to choose a plant, germinate, grow and plant it in a new pot, all made by you. The little farmer's soul is about to meet the fields. There are no tractors and cows in our story. But just before we grow something, let's get creative.
Pots before plants
The magic of gardening. Beyond the basic elements needed for the plant to live, such as weather, light and soil, we need something to contain the soil and the seeds that will soon become a plant. And the great thing about this is that it can be almost anything - as long as it has enough place for the plant to grow roots, it is waterproof and has a few drainage holes, you're on your way to success. A milk carton, yogurt cup, old shoe etc... pick one, make small holes at the bottom if needed, then use your imagination to design it. Power Ranger stickers? Hello Kitty? Free style painting? Anything goes here. You can actually start work and create your new planter as your new plant grows. So, let's get back to our main plan of planting and growing.
A new gardener has just been born – it's you.
Remember our first step in gardening? How we sprouted new seeds almost overnight? Great. Now it's time for us to use our knowledge and experience. We’ll begin with the list of seeds/plants we would like to start with. The guideline here is to choose fast-growing plants, with seeds that your kids can hold in their hands. I always use large seeds, such as:
These are the fastest, strongest and most worthwhile seeds.
There are two ways to germinate seeds before planting. Here is the common way: finish decorating your new yogurt pot with Hello Kitty, Decepticons or whatever. Now, please check you haven't forgotten to make the drainage holes. Add a layer of at least one inch or so of gravel, grainstones or small lava stones inside your new pot. Only then cover it almost till the top of the cup with garden soil. Yes, I know… now it's time for you to go to the nearest nursery or garden center or order on-line. If you choose 'the nursery route’, take the kids with you - they’ll love it. Unless you made a 100 liter container back home, please don't be tempted to buy the biggest bag of garden soil they have - there is really no need. Get the smallest bag, and wish the seller goodbye.
Back home, fill your new planter with the soil and soak it with water. Now pick your favorite seed from the shortlist above (I'm not going to force you, but choose cucumber as your first plant to grow). Use a pencil to make two small holes in the soil, measuring the depth as outlined on the seed packet. Usually 2cm is the right depth for all kind of seeds. Drop the seeds inside the holes, cover them and you're done. Why two holes? For thousands of different reasons, not all seeds succeed so it's just a backup plan. Later on, I’ll show you how to use the two plants if they do both succeed.
The second way to germinate is using some "magical" cheap products that make the whole experience totally different. Coco-peat discs or mineral hydrophobic germination cubes are an awesome indoor seed starter. They’re clean, easy to use and control and, when you get to the point where you feel like it’s about to germinate, you can take it AS IS and plant it directly in your new pot or in the garden soil. It will continue to develop as if it was planted in your pot or garden soil in the first place. Try it - I think you'll find it useful.
Same seedling instructions here. Soak the coco-peat or cube, make two holes 2cm deep and plant your seeds.
Which way will get better results? Both methods will produce the same results. Basically, seeds can germinate even on a wet floor – it’s just that then they will have no place for the new small roots to develop. With coco-peat discs, garden soil or germination cubes, the seeds get all the conditions they need to get both new leaves and roots.
Please note: in both cases, pot or cubes, make sure you put them on a plate. After all, the water will slowly drip out of them and you don't want that to happen all over your new dining room table or kitchen worktop.
Growing conditions: as for the germination stage, the seeds mentioned above will germinate without the need for direct sunlight. Place them near the kids’ beds, but as soon as a new leaf shows, it’s better to relocate the plant to a place with natural light (e.g. a window sill). But please, avoid direct exposure to the sun in the early stages. If there is no light source or it's winter time, using a full spectrum light bulb is a great solution.
If your plants have reached the point shown in the pictures below, it’s time to re-pot them into your old shoe, milk carton or something bigger. It’s not essential to re-pot as soon as you see new growth. The cube or the coco-peat disc can easily hold the new plant for few weeks. So, take your time and watch it grow slowly. You'll decide when it’s time to move it to the new home you build.
When you reach the point where your plant is growing beyond your expectations, you'll need to prune it. At this point, send us a picture and we'll show you exactly what to do.
Providing general guidelines on 'how to prune' any kind of plant is important, but there are plants, and there is YOUR plant. So despite there being loads of information on this site, I also provide specific and personalized support. If something wasn't clear, or you're not sure of your plant's name, simply send me a picture with your question. Use the form below and I'll get back to you. In the mean time, see what others are asking.