Gardening With Toddlers, Preschoolers, and Big Kids: Planning and Preparing

Gardening can be a rewarding and fun activity for adults and children. There is also some work in the form of planning, preparing and maintaining your garden, and harvesting. All of which can take time and energy.

We have been planting a small garden, since moving to our new home . We have a larger yard compared to our previous home, so this has been so great.

Our garden space before working the ground!

In previous years, my husband’s family farmed various crops and had farm animals. They often had a large family garden, so my husband had a breadth of knowledge when it came to working the land and maintaining a garden.

My grandmother also had a small garden when I was a child; however, my knowledge stopped at tasting the yummy food that my grandmother grew.

I have always been all about having a garden. I don’t mind getting out and weeding, racking, and planting. (Although, I’m a bit less helpful when I’m pregnant. (; Okay, a lot less helpful when pregnant.)

Whatever I need to do. I’ll do it!

Especially when it comes to being able to eat what we have planted and feed our growing family foods that we have harvested.

This year I am especially excited. We get to plant a larger garden with the help of our generous neighbors.

Woo hoo!

They are letting us use part of their large yard, so we can plant even more flowers and vegetables.

Our neighbors garden space before it is tilled!

To those of you out there that love to grow your own flowers and vegetables. You know how exciting this is.

We live in town, so this is so generous and did I say exciting!

We had originally planned to plant a small salsa garden with a few pepper, jalapeno, and tomato plants. Now we get to plant so much more.

I can’t wait!

Before I get to share and eat there is work to be done.

First things first.

Planning

  • You need to be thinking about what kind of plants you are wanting to plant. Fruits, vegetables, or flowers. All or some. What are you wanting to do with what you grow? We are wanting to can salsa, freeze vegetables like okra, and have fresh squash and pumpkins. I also wanted to add more flowers around our yard for the summer and have flowers that I can cut for flower arrangements.

  • You also need to be considering what kind of space you have for your plants. Will the plants be in containers, in the ground, or both. We do a combination of both. We do this because our garden is not in full sun all day, so some of our plants are in containers in locations where they are able to get more sun.

  • When do you need to start planting? Will you start seeds inside and then transplant or plant all seeds outside? Will you use plants in the place of seeds. This depends on what your needs are. We use seeds and plants. We were better prepared this year and have started with mostly seeds. Fingers crossed. Some little seedlings need extra care.

  • Do you feel like you need to map out your garden? We do not typically map out our garden, because my husband pretty much knows where he wants things to grow. If you need more information on this “Grow a Good Life: Journey to a Self Sufficient Life” has a great map with measurements for spacing for a variety of plants.
    https://growagoodlife.com/vegetable-garden-map-garden-beds/

  • Do you have the time to maintain a garden? I ask this because gardens do need time for weeding and watering, especially, when it gets hot outside and the garden needs to be consistently watered.

  • How much money do you want to invest in your gardening project? Start writing out your budget. Will you need any special tools or containers? Containers can be just about anything you have. Some plants like lettuces have very shallow root systems and don’t need a deep pot, while other plants need a deeper pot with drainage capabilities. Will you use seeds or plants? Seeds are less expensive, but need earlier planning. Do you need additional soil or compost?

  • If this is a family gardening project, you can start thinking about how you are going to include the littlest members of your family. We typically include our kiddos in almost every step. We ask them about what types of plants they want to grow and they are usually with us when we are purchasing seeds or plants.

  • Don’t forget to utilize your local resources like your area extension agency. Garden centers can also typically assist you if you have questions.

Once you have completed your planning it is time to start preperations.

Preparing

  • Make your gardening list for the store. (What seeds, plants, soil, and/or tools are needed?) Simple is good. You don’t need the newest and greatest to start a garden.
    We will need some soil for some of our containers, a longer water hose, and more kid sized gardening tools. We did choose to plant mainly seeds this year for two big reasons. One, we were better prepared and started on time. Two, we needed to save money. Live plants do cost more than seeds; however, there is a larger time commitment as far as care of your seedlings. We also purchased additional miniature greenhouses.

I’ll take you through our steps that we used when planting our seeds in our little greenhouses.

We used a Jiffy professional greenhouse with 72 pods or cells. We don’t have an outside greenhouse, so we needed somewhere conducive for plant germination. These little greenhouses work for us. (I’m not affiliated with this product.)

We followed the package directions and filled it with water. We had a child audience and little helpers to assist with filling it with water.

dirt disks flooded with 10 1/2 cups water

It is pretty cool watching those little dirt disks soak up all of that water in a matter of seconds. No Joke! The kids were as amazed as me.

Seconds later!

The kids and myself then took turns planting seeds. They really enjoyed putting their little seeds in the dirt.

We did plan out where each plant variety started, so we could keep track of what plant was what when it started to grow. Here is an example of what this looks like with our flowers.

flower seeds
flower seeds in trays

Periodically we have been showing the children the greenhouse. Once they are sprouting the top can be removed, so the seedlings can freely grow. The seeds have had time to germinate and the kids were so excited seeing the plants growing.

I am too!

I check on the little plants often. The seeds love it in there. They are already germinating and growing even after planting a week ago. A lot sooner than the plant recommended germination time. Try not to remove the lid, though, until they are ready.

Amazing pepper and tomato seedlings
  • Prepare your containers for planting and/or till up or work the ground that you are wanting to place your garden. We showed our little gardeners where the garden was going to go before we worked the ground and then again after. We really want them to feel they are a part of each step in the process.
Neighbors yard is tilled!
Our garden by our house.
  • Check the weather frequently the closer you are getting to your planting time. This is so important! These little plants need conducive weather for survival.

  • If your garden, the weather, and your plants are ready. Plant!!!

We have been doing a variety of indoor and outdoor activities with our kiddos through every phase of the gardening process thus far.

  • Tour your garden location. Talk about what you are going to plant and where plants are going to be planted.
  • Check on your plants and discuss how they are growing and what the plants are needing to grow.
  • Biblical passages related to, creation, gardening, seeds and planting.
  • Crafts; including the sticker art craft using a garden theme. https://homebaked.blog/2019/03/31/sticker-art-an-easy-fun-activity
  • This is also one of my favorite go to sites for activities in all kinds of subjects.
    https://dltk-kids.com/ There are ideas for crafts and printables like coloring pages. Oh, and it’s free!
  • Reading books. Here is a great list of books if you need specific titles.
    http://www.pbs.org/parents/adventures-in-learning/2014/04/best-gardening-books-kids/ Otherwise, check out your local library or borrow from friends. You can also find books online.
  • Sing songs and read nursery rhyme books about gardening
  • Discussions about gardening and eating fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Taste testing of fruits and vegetables.
  • Coloring pages.
  • Pretend to be a seed sprouting from the ground and growing into a beautiful flower.

Various subjects for your crafts and activities can cover the following topics related to gardening.

  • fruits and vegetables
  • pollinators such as bees, butterflies and birds
  • plants and flowers,
  • growth of a seed
  • gardening including care of, maintaining, and harvesting
  • teamwork
  • sharing with others
  • photosynthesis
  • parts of a plant
  • what things harm plants
  • caring for our plants
  • go over what the plans are for working in the garden
  • biblical passages discussing God’s creation and fruits of our labor.

And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. Genesis 1:11

There are so many learning opportunities for your little ones and you when you are planting a garden. Our kids are so excited and already very invested in the process. We are so excited to see them plant their vegetables and flowers and help us in the garden. I’ll be sharing that soon!

Thank you and enjoy creating at home!

Sources:

Arsenalut, Rachel. “Planning Your Vegetable Garden: Mapping Your Garden Beds.” Grow A Good Life. Journey To A Self-Sufficient Life, February 4, 2015,
https://growagoodlife.com/vegetable-garden-map-garden-beds/

DLTK’s Crafts For Kids. DLTK. https://dltk-kids.com/

Spengler, Brandy. “Sticker Art An Easy Activity.” Home Baked By Brandy, March 31, 2019, https://homebaked.blog/2019/03/31/sticker-art-an-easy-fun-activity

Steinberg, Danielle. “Best Gardening Books For Kids.” PBS,
http://www.pbs.org/parents/adventures-in-learning/2014/04/best-gardening-books-kids/

United States Department Of Agriculture. “Plant Hardiness,” U.S. Department of Agriculture. https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/

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