Planting for Foolproof Family Fun in the Garden

by Ken Lain, The Mountain Gardener, Watters Garden Center

Some of our fondest memories are gardening together, collecting worms from under the tree pots at the garden center, picking a basket full of flowers and the summer harvest.

When my kids were small, they worked with me, and instead of money, we would visit the pet shop, buy a goldfish and release them into the pond. This was always after the ice cream shop, of course.

My grandson and I now hang together. His unofficial nickname is “Garden Guy Junior,” and we love gardening together.

Kids love to get outside and get their hands dirty! They are naturally curious about nature. It’s the reason my latest grandson and I can spend 15 minutes watching a bug crawl across the driveway.

Here are my foolproof ideas to get kids involved with nature not and gardens throughout their lives.

Give them their spot

Give them a row at the back of your vegetable garden, a small raised garden bed or a group of containers on the deck. Teach them pride of ownership.

Grow plants from seed

Seed germination is fascinating to adults and even more so to children. Be sure to pick seeds that quickly germinate to keep their interest piqued. Here are some fun and easy plants children can start in September.

  • Vegetables — arugula, beans, beets, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, kale, leeks, lettuce, radish and turnips.
  • Flowers — aster, dusty miller, Johnny Jump Ups, marigolds, mums, pansy, phlox, snapdragon and viola.

Keep them involved in the harvest

Let them harvest the vegetables and help prepare them for dinner. Assist them in cut flowers and arrange them in a vase.

Teach kids about beneficial insects next spring

Pick up a packet of ladybugs, praying mantis or red worms, then release them in your garden together.

Plant miniature gardens

Air plants, terrariums, fairy garden, and miniature train gardens are all popular with kids. Choose a wide shallow container and plants with small foliage, or ground cover type plants. Arrange the plants into miniature landscapes, complete with gravel paths, mini benches and arbors.

Plant a garden for birds and butterflies

Kids love to watch birds at a feeder and chasing butterflies, and we are in their migratory path flying south for winter. Provide these winged friends with plants for shelter, a place to protect their young, food, flowers and water.