Vegetable garden for kids

Draw a simple garden plan using a measuring tape, pencils, and colored pens

Creating a to-scale simple garden plan can help you design your perfect home vegetable garden. This is how to create a very simple one using simple art tools and paper Full video at the end

It’s officially been a month since we’ve moved into our new house. I’m sure you’ve been there before so you’ll understand just how mega stressful and mega exciting it’s been. Boxing things up, moving things, taking a moment to soak in the new home and smile. I’ve been detailing the move, house redecorating, and the new garden on YouTube if you fancy seeing what it’s all about. The house is small and the inside is almost finished so my attention is turning to the garden. I have so many plans for it! Fragrant roses, an edible hedge, and lots vegetables. I want to design it properly though so the first step is drawing a simple garden plan.

My goal is to transform most of the grassy area into a vegetable garden

Why a Simple Garden Plan is important

The back garden is currently a grassy lawn, evergreen shrubs, a greenhouse, and some beautiful little fruit trees. It sounds like a lot already but to a veggie gardener like me it’s a blank slate. I’ve been dreaming about what will be growing there and have already jumped the gun and purchased a new garden arch. I’d planned to put it in last weekend but then realized that I wasn’t quite sure where I should place it. I’d not yet figured out where my garden beds were going.

I also realized that I had no idea how big the garden was or how many four foot wide beds I could get in it. Never mind everything else. I needed to take measurements and draw everything out to help me design my new garden.

I need a to-scale garden plan in order to plan out the sizes and placement of raised beds, the arbor, and new plants. Without one and garden planning is just guess work.

Taking measure of the garden

Measuring the Garden

Creating a to-scale garden plan begins with measuring everything in the garden. The lengths, widths, diagonals, and distances between certain objects. If you have access to an open reel measuring tape this will be easy. I didn’t and used an ordinary measuring tape but think it worked fine.

As far as units are concerned I chose to use feet. However, if most of your available landscaping materials are in metres then you might want to use metric.

I roughly sketched out the garden and the measurements on a pad of paper — it took about half an hour in total. Looking at it afterwards it was clear that my initial mental model of its size was all wrong. Seeing the numbers put it into prospective.

Sketching out a to-scale garden plan

Drawing out a to-scale Garden Plan

Professional landscapers create beautiful garden plans to present to clients. They’re often illustrated with specific plants and trees and use a 1:50 scale. I’m not selling to anyone other than myself so a simple garden plan is all I need. I figure that many home gardeners would feel the same.

Many people use a 1cm equating to 1 metre scale. This is a scale of 1:100

Landscapers would using a drafting table to do their designing. I have a kitchen table and ordinary printer paper to draw on. That meant that the scale I used was going to be dependent on how much I could fit on the sheet. I took the width of my garden, just over 33 feet, and found that I could fit it on the paper using 3/16″ to represent every foot. I’m terrible with math so it was trial and error with working it out on my ruler.

Using my basic math ability I worked out that 1 inch in real life would equate to 5.33 feet or 64 inches. That makes my to-scale drawing 1:64. Meaning that my drawing is 64 times smaller than my garden truly is. You can choose whatever scale best fits your paper and needs.

Filling in the Details

After I’d created an outline I filled in the permanent structures such as the gate, greenhouse, and trees. Shrubs I plan to remove are absent from my final plan. All I used were simple art tools such as a ruler, pencil, eraser, and some colored pens. You can see my thought process and designing in the video above.

Drawing a simple garden plan was a huge help in creating an accurate vegetable garden design. I could see that four long beds could fit, that there was plenty of space for a shed at the back, and where to place my garden arch. Knowing all this gave me the confidence to order roses for the arch and begin thinking about what plants and veg were going where. I’ve also kept a lot of the features I’m planning in pencil since it gives me the flexibility to change things if needed.

If you’re in the same shoes as me, I would highly recommend you follow the same steps. I hope that my little exercise in amateur garden design will help you create a no-fuss simple garden plan for yourself.

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It is time to commit my thoughts and plans about this year’s garden to paper.

I’ve got my seeds, charts, catalogs, pencil, eraser and cup of coffee! Based on my thought re the Six Questions Prior to Planning a Garden and how the typical harvest time of veggies coincides with my schedule I’ve created my garden plan for the year.

Key things I consider when planning where to plant what are:

Spacing
Be sure to leave enough room for your veggies to grow into adulthood. I find this very difficult – a winter squash seed or transplant doesn’t look like it’s going to need 3-5 feet of space – but it really does. And bush tomatoes really do get bushy – give them the recommended space (I tell myself!). Follow the seed instructions or the guidelines in the Planting Chart re spacing. If you’re concerned about blank spots in the garden until the plants fill in, consider planting some early crops like spinach, lettuce, radishes, herbs or flowers beside these plants.

Crop Rotation
Rotating your veggies (planting different veggies in different spots every year) helps minimize pests and disease. It also helps to manage your soil better as some crops are heavier feeders than others and some (like legumes) actually add nitrogen back into the soil.

Our plot is 30′ x 40′. I have divided it into four segments so we can walk around easily and plan for our crop rotation. Basically, I just move all the same things from one quadrant into the next quadrant. In 4 years, the zucchini and pumpkins will be back in the same quadrant.

Companion Planting
Did you know planting onions next to carrots can help control the carrot fly, that rosemary repels the cabbage fly or that pole beans and beets planted next to each other will stunt each others’ growth? It might seem crazy at first glance, but of course it makes sense that nature created natural systems to control and manage life. All we need to do is learn from it and respect it. So, as much as possible, I plan according to which plants like to be beside each other and which don’t, eg. borage and cucumbers love each other. A google search on Companion Planting will provide you with more than enough information on which plants go together and which don’t. Here’s a Companion Planting Chart from the Old Farmer’s Almanac that’s easy and straight forward. One day I will compile a list for our common prairie veggies – but today is not that day – sorry!

After all that, here’s our garden plan for 2016. At least that’s the plan as it stands right now – by the time I’m diggin’ in the garden – things may change!

Will you be planting a garden this year? What’s your favorite veggie?

Sign up to get articles by Getty delivered to your inbox. You’ll get recipes, practical tips and great food information like this. Getty is a Professional Home Economist, speaker and writer putting good food on tables and agendas. She is the author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, a mom and veggie gardener.

The first step in starting a vegetable garden, or any garden really, is to write out a plan. The plan can be anything from a few Post It notes on a seed catalog to a computerized garden map. I like to create something in between, a hand drawn map of the garden beds with the planting plan. This is a great project for a rainy day in early spring.

Typically, the vegetable garden needs to be planned out each year. Vegetables are annuals (for the most part) and when they reach maturity we eat them, so they need to be planted every year. There are so many factors to where, when, and how you plant the different vegetables, that a map is the best way to keep you on track. When to start seeds, whether or not to start them outdoors, when to transplant seedlings, good plant companions, and crop rotation are all things to think about when designing a garden plan. Here are the steps that I use for my mapping process.

(If you need help building garden beds then start here instead.)

First, map out your garden space. Measure your vegetable garden and draw a garden map to scale 1″ representing 1′ in the garden. Draw in any obstacles that you will have to contend with like posts, irrigation heads, or other structures you need to work with in the garden.

Label north on the map and watch the sun over the course of a few days to get a sense for what the light will be like. Remember that the sun in the summer and fall will be in different positions in the sky. Trees will leaf out and create shade, buildings may create more or less shade as the sun moves. If this is your first year mapping your garden, makes notes in a gardening journal throughout the year as to how the light will fall. Here is my garden helper coloring in the sun and shade while we plan over a coffee date.

Second, create your wish list. Grab some seed catalogs and write down all of the vegetables, fruits, and herbs that you want to grow. Now look up each of them in a seed catalog written for your area. You may find that some of your top choices are not even for sale in your area. Sadly, this is because not every veggie can grow in every climate. You will need to stick to what you can grow, so cross those off the list.

Look at the number of days to harvest and do the math. Some vegetables need a really long growing season and if cool fall weather comes before the harvest date, you may never even taste the fruits of your labor. Think about requirements like plant size at maturity, spacing needs, and shade/sun requirements to further refine your list.

The other thing I think about when creating my vegetable garden seed list is cost and availability of the vegetables. I choose heirloom seed varieties, rare colors, and expensive-to-buy produce to grow in my home garden.

The next step is to start adding plants to the garden map. Use pencil so you can easily move plants to new spaces or add more. Our vegetable garden is a small area that has four planters, two on the ground and two in the sky in a vertical planting system. To determine what plants went into the beds I looked at the location and amount of shade. I planned for root vegetables and plants with deep roots in the two beds that are on the ground. Shallow rooted plants when in the upper planters.

Use square foot gardening. If you have uniquely-shaped garden beds like I do, then square foot planting will be a very helpful tool. Mark each square foot on the garden map, then you can determine how many plants of each type can go in each square. Some vegetables like cabbage and cauliflower require at least a square to themselves, but others like carrots can squeeze 12-16 plants into a square. There is a guide here for square foot planting.

Finally, put pen to paper and mark the final location of your vegetables. This plan may change as the season goes by. Mark those changes, and anything that you noticed throughout the year right on your garden map. It will be a great starting point for next year, and a memento of your garden for years to come.

What’s next? Start seeds! Check out the Ultimate Seed Starting Guide here:

Yay, spring is here! The days are getting warmer and we’re now past the point of when our area has its average last freeze. You know what that means… It’s time to get outside and start planting! Today I’m sharing this simple how to grow a container garden project that is just perfect to do with the kids!


My kids have always been fascinated with planting seeds and trying to get stuff to grow. It’s so funny to watch them harvest seeds from apples, oranges, tomatoes (pretty much anything with seeds) and run outside together and plant them in the ground. Of course, I knew they were never going to see results this way. They were always so excited about planting their seeds, I didn’t have the heart to tell them nothing would happen. Plus, I just liked watching them play outside together and using their imagination.

Want to make these cute little DIY Garden Markers? See the full tutorial here.

The kids and I had so much fun together over spring break working outside on this little container garden. The best part of the project? These seeds will DEFINITELY GROW!

(Big thank you to Miracle-Gro Gro-ables for partnering with me to bring you this project. All opinions are 100% mine .)

For our project, I thought about using established plants from the plant nursery, but I wanted to give the kids a chance to see something grow from seeds. I decided the Miracle-Gro Gro-ables were the way to go. Have you seen these? The Miracle-Gro Gro-ables are little pods that contain seeds and everything else you need to grow a fruit, herb, or vegetable. (Except the water, of course.)

Find these seed pods here ==>> Gro-ables Seed Pods

To get us started on this project, I made a quick trip up to the local hardware/garden store and grabbed 2 wide containers. (I wanted to line the plants up in one container for each kid.) I also picked up some additional potting mix, and the supplies to make some cute little plant markers. (Want to make a set of these markers for yourself? Check out the tutorial here!) The plastic containers I bought were originally orange, but I used some spray paint for plastic we already had on hand and gave the pots a quick spring color makeover.

To make the container gardens, it’s as easy as filling the planter with potting mix, making a small hole in the soil, peeling off the Grow-ables lid and pushing the seed pod into the soil until the top of the pod is level with the soil’s surface.

That’s it and each Gro-able is guaranteed to grow! Water daily and in 1-2 weeks your seed will sprout.

Everyone is so excited to see the plants grow!

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The Best Container Plants for Children

Salad cress grows with very little effort in pretty much any size of container. (I remember growing it in yoghurt pots when I was in primary school.) Why not decorate a container to look like a person’s head, complete with googly eyes and a big, bright, lipstick mouth added on, plant cress seeds, and give your kids the fun of watching their “person” grow hair? (There’s nothing wrong with green hair… some of the nicest people I know have green hair…)

Strawberries are somewhat more demanding than salad cress but they are always a favourite with young gardeners. If you have more than one child, why not add a little light-hearted sibling rivalry? Let each child choose their own container, and plant and care for their own strawberry, and see who gets the biggest crop?

If your children prefer flowers over fruit, heathers are a good option. They are generally tough enough to survive the occasional neglect of young, easily-distracted people forgetting to water them because it’s a bright, warm day, and there’s playing to be done!

How – and When – Should I Introduce My Children to Container Gardening?

It’s never too early!

If you are already into container gardening yourself, take your children with you while you tend your plants whatever age they are. Growing up around plants, like growing up around animals, makes for happier and healthier babies, children, and adults.

If you don’t have a container garden yourself but would like your children to experience growing their own food or flowers, then around four or five is a good age to start. That’s when children can start to follow instructions and manage to carry a small bottle or jug of water on their own.

by Kelly Johnson – Embarking on journey toward container gardening with kids often means biting off more than one can chew. A big garden seems great – until weeds set in, insects find it, and life’s everyday jobs place a pleasurable task of gardening on the back burner. Then, sadly, green-thumb visions of bountiful harvests turn brown, along with the plants.

Beginning gardeners of all ages should start small, remembering that as skills grow, so will the harvest. Container gardening is a manageable way to excite children about plants and vegetables, while setting up a scenario for success. Whether at home, school, or in a community garden, there is the perfect container for every situation, space, or skill level.

1. Container gardening means the right container in the right place

The location of containers is as important as their contents. Whether placed on a patio or deck, or within a larger garden, kids need easy access to their plants. Can tiny arms reach the garden for harvesting? What is the sun situation? Pro Tip: Place container gardens within your line of sight, as it increases the chances you (or the kids) will remember to provide regular watering.

2. Container gardening organization & compatibility

A big mistake by new container gardening enthusiasts is to combine plants with very different water and sun needs in the same container. Be sure to research compatibility of the plants you want, and ask questions of growers at your favorite nursery.

3. Room to grow is crucial for container gardening

It’s easy to overcrowd a pot when starting a container gardening project, as tiny seeds can be deceiving. Do some digging (pun intended) and learn about the space needs of plants before dropping any seeds in the dirt. Remember to allow height space and potential trellis room, too, and know that vegetables have deeper roots than most flowers, so plan for deeper pots if you’re growing edibles.

4. Don’t skimp on container gardening soil

In container gardening where plants are generally more crowded, high quality potting soil should always be a priority. Good potting soil is light enough to allow for easy root growth and compaction prevention, and is full of nutrients. Also carefully consider drainage of containers, adding holes in the bottom if necessary. Contrary to popular opinion, adding rocks or Styrofoam to the bottom of a pot does not help with drainage, and only takes up valuable growing space, not to mention making pots difficult for youngsters to carry.

5. Tips for selecting container gardening receptacles

Once you’ve planned locations and types of plants, it’s time for the best part, selecting a container. The good news is that almost anything can become a container garden, from teacups to toilets. Flower pots, of course, are the most common container. Large, small, plastic, clay, round, or square, any traditional flower pot makes a simple container garden. Stacked or clustered, they look great grouped together on a deck, patio, or balcony.

For little gardens, sometimes called terrariums, use up-cycled glass jars, an old aquarium, or any clear container. Kids often enjoy creating a theme for their container gardening project, from cartoon characters to colors and textures. Try a fairy garden from ferns, or a mini-moss terrarium for plastic dinosaurs.

Have a closet full of old shoes? Grab one or two, along with a plastic sandwich bag. Fill the bag with soil, and place a cutting or small, moisture-loving plant inside (I use a pothos cutting; this leafy houseplant grows fast). Then, insert the planted baggie into the shoe and fold the top of the baggie over the top of the shoe. Spruce up the shoe’s exterior with fancy new shoelaces or paint.

Social media channels are full of “shabby chic” options for container gardening. The shabby chic container garden is usually integrated into an existing garden or landscape by taking something old and upcycling it into something new. Turn an old bench or chair into a container garden by adding pots to the former seat areas. Fill an old grill with fiery red, orange, yellow, and purple plants. Take an old bed frame and turn it into a “garden bed.” Plant a grouping of painted tin cans or canning jars, attach to a piece of reclaimed wood, and hang on the wall. Shabby chic gardens are limited only by one’s imagination.

Most kids are a bit confused when it comes time to pick out plants, so choose color themes, and plant a container garden centered on one or two particular colors. Don’t forget plants with colored foliage as well as flowers, and put taller plants in the back of a container, leaving room to fill around them with trailing vines or texture-full ground cover to add visual movement.

Another option is to “grow” your own dinner. Plant a pizza garden in a large (24-inch) pot, adding one cherry tomato plant, some basil, oregano to trail out the front, and a sweet pepper plant.

Container gardening is a fun and easy way to get young gardeners excited about botany, plants, and farm-to-table concepts. It also opens the door to stewardship, and during this Earth Day month, is a valuable activity for the whole family.

Kelly Johnson is an artist, author, and publisher of Wings, Worms, and Wonder, a website centering on nature, art, and green thumbs. She lives and works in Florida.

It’s that time of the year, when the sun is finally shining again, and I am just itching to get outside and plant something in the garden, and as soon as I pull out the packets of seeds and start digging in the dirt, the kids want to join in too.

Gardening with your kids doesn’t have to be time consuming or difficult, and you don’t even need a green thumb!

All you need is a little patch of dirt or a sunny place to put some pots and a bit of time to get dirty!

When you are choosing plants to grow with your kids, look for things that go from seed to food fairly quickly, things that are easy to plant (think big seeds for little hands), and things that are not too fussy about where they are planted. It’s also a great idea to think about growing some veggies that your kids like to eat, as well as a few new things that they might try.

Try some of these easy veggies to grow with kids!

Radishes
Radishes are not fussy, it doesn’t matter where you plant them, and they grow fast. You’ll see the first sprouts in just a few days and they will be ready to harvest within 30 days, or earlier if you eat them small. They’ll grow right through spring summer and autumn and they have an interesting flavour for kids to try.

Alfalfa and other sprouts
You don’t even need dirt to grow alfalfa sprouts! Grow them in a jar on your kitchen bench where you can actually see the seeds sprouting. Find step by step instructions for growing sprouts here.

Microgreens
Microgreens may sound a bit hipster but they are really just a big sprout. You can grow them in a shallow container on your window sill, they grow fast and they are lots of fun to snip off with scissors when they are ready to eat. You can find instructions for growing your own microgreens here.

Carrots
Carrots grow really well in a deep pot, in fact they probably do better in a pot than in the ground if you have hard clay soil like we do. Grow them in spring or autumn and you should be pulling baby carrots within a few weeks. There are lots of interesting types of carrots too, you might like to grow some purple ones!

Zucchini
There are two great things about growing zucchinis 1) it’s easy to grow a lot of them and 2) you can use them in so many ways. My kids beg to plant zucchini seeds every spring because they want to make this easy and delicious zucchini bread.

Beans
Beans are nice and big and easy for little fingers to plant directly into a garden bed or pot. If you choose climbing beans you’ll need to provide some kind of support for them to grow on, so build a teepee out of garden stakes and grow yourself a cubby house. There is nothing better than munching on fresh green beans while sitting in your bean teepee! Find instructions for growing a bean teepee here.

Peas
You can grow peas into a teepee also. You plant peas a little earlier than beans so grow them up your teepee support in early spring, then plant some beans a few weeks later to grow over summer. Kids love picking peas and eating them fresh from the garden, and it’s easy to dry the peas and save them as seeds to plant next year.

Lettuce
Picking your own salad is great fun! Lettuce comes in all different colours and varieties, is quick to grow and doesn’t need full sun. It is easiest to grow lettuce from seedlings rather than seed, and you should be able to buy a tray that has few different varieties.

Pumpkins
With nice big seeds pumpkins are easy for little kids to plant and they sprout quickly. You can start them in little pots on your window sill in early spring, but you’ll need plant them outside with lots of space as the vines can easily take over. You’ll need to be patient, but as long as you remember to water them (kids love watering the garden) you should be rewarded with some big pumpkins by the end of autumn, and there are so many fun things to do with pumpkins!

Edible flowers
Ok so these are not technically veggies, but edible flowers are a great thing to grow. They help bring beneficial insects to your garden, and the kids will think it is weirdly cool that you can eat them. Try growing some of these edible flowers and adding them to a salad or decorating a cake wiht them – pansies, nastertiums, marigolds and violets (not africran violets) Find more information here

Books to get the kids inspired to garden

While you are waiting for your seeds to grow, read a few books about gardening with your kids. There are so many lovely picture books that helps kids learn about and inspire them to love gardening, here are a few of our favourites.

Isabella’s Garden by Glenda Millard – This book has beautiful illustrations and since we have an Isabella in our family it is one of our favourites. Find it on Amazon or Booktopia

How Does My Garden Grow by Gerda Muller – This is a lovely book with lots of information about plans and gardening included as part of the story. Fond it on Amazon or Booktopia

The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle – With the stunning illustrations we all know from Eric Carle, this book tells the story of how a tiny seed survives to grow into a flower. Find it on Amazon or Booktopia

A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Aston and Sylvia Long – This book is all about the magical life of seeds. Who knew seeds could be so mysterious and beautiful! Find it on Amazon or Booktopia

Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert – This is a great book for little ones with bright colourful pictures and short text, as well as inspiration to grow and cook vegetable soup! Find it on Amazon or Booktopia.

The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss – A classic story book about having faith that your seeds will one day grow! Find it on Amazon or Booktopia.

From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons – A great beginners non-ficton book about gardening and plants. Find it on Amazon or Booktopia

Jack’s Garden by Henry Cole – It’s not the ‘house that Jack built’ but the ‘garden that Jack planted’. Lots of great illustrations and useful information woven into this lovely book. Find it on Amazon or Booktopia

You might also like to check out our free printable ‘Gardening and Growing’ play dough mats so you can make your garden out of dough while you wait for the real thing to grow.

Do you garden with your kids?

What is your favourite thing to grow with your kids?
What do you think are the best veggies to grow with kids?

Feel free to share….

Children And Vegetable Gardens: How To Make A Vegetable Garden For Kids

Children love nearly anything pertaining to the great outdoors. They love digging in the dirt, creating yummy treats, and playing in trees. Children are curious by nature, and there is no greater joy than that from a child who has cultivated plants from his or her own vegetable garden. Making a children’s vegetable garden is easy. Keep reading to learn how to make a vegetable garden for kids.

Children and Vegetable Gardens

Kids enjoy planting seeds, watching them sprout, and eventually harvesting what they have grown. Allowing children to become involved in the planning, caring, and harvesting of a garden not only gives parents a unique opportunity to spend time with their children, but it helps the kids develop an understanding of that which they are curious about – nature. Children also develop a sense of responsibility and pride in themselves, which can ultimately improve self-esteem.

One of the best ways to encourage enthusiasm for gardening is appealing to a child’s senses by adding plants not only for the eyes, but those they can taste, smell and touch. Vegetables are always a good choice for young children. They not only germinate quickly but can be eaten once they have matured.

Veggie Gardens for Kids

Making a children’s vegetable garden effectively means choosing appropriate plants. Vegetables that are good choices and easy to grow include:

  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Radishes
  • Tomatoes

Of course, children love to snack, so include favorites like cherry tomatoes, strawberries, or peas as well. You might consider implementing a fence or trellis for vine-growing vegetables or even a small sitting area where children can snack on these favorite treats.

Kids also enjoy plants that offer unique shapes, such as eggplant or gourds. After harvesting, gourds can be decorated and used as birdhouses. You can even turn them into canteens or maracas.

To add interest and color to the vegetable garden, you might want to add some flowers and herbs. These can also appeal to a child’s sense of smell. Good choices include:

  • Marigolds
  • Nasturtiums
  • Mint
  • Dill
  • Sunflowers
  • Zinnias

Keep away from any plant that may be poisonous, however, and teach kids to eat only those they know are safe.

Children love to touch soft, fuzzy plants. Appeal to these needs with plants like lamb’s ear or cotton. Don’t forget sounds. Adding unique features such as water fountains, windmills, and chimes will often spark additional interest in a child.

How to Make a Vegetable Garden for Kids

When you are making a children’s vegetable garden, allow them to be involved in deciding where and what to put in the garden. Let them help with soil preparation, seed planting, and routine maintenance.

Locate the garden where it will be easily accessible to the child but in an area that can be viewed by others as well. Also, make sure that the chosen site gets plenty of sunlight and an ample supply of water.

As for the layout, veggies gardens for kids should allow for imagination. Gardens do not have to be planted in a traditional rectangular plot. Some kids might enjoy a having a container garden. Nearly anything that holds soil and has good drainage can be used, so let the child pick out interesting pots and encourage him or her to decorate them.

Other children may desire only a small bed. This works fine, too. You may even consider a raised bed. For something a little different, try a circle with divided sections for various plants, like a pizza garden. Many children love to hide, so incorporate sunflowers around the edges to provide a sense of seclusion.

Vegetable gardening with children also includes tasks, so create a special area for storing garden tools. Allow them to have their own child-sized rakes, hoes, spades and gloves. Other ideas may include large spoons for digging and old measuring cups, bowls and bushel baskets, or even a wagon for harvesting. Let them help with watering, weeding and harvesting.

5 reasons to grow vegetables with your kids

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It’s fun: Your kids will experience the wonder of watching something grow from a seed or a tiny plant into something recognizable that they can touch and eat. They can grow their own pumpkins or pick their own strawberries. They’ll get to play in the dirt with a productive result.

It’s educational. Unless you live on a farm, your kids probably don’t think about where their food comes from or how it grows. What a discovery to see that potatoes and carrots grow underground. By helping water and weed, they’ll also learn responsibility and what it’s like to care for something.

It’s easy. Growing vegetables can be as easy or complicated as you like. You don’t have to have a lot of land, or for that matter, any land, because you can grow vegetables in containers. The containers can be clay pots, old laundry tubs or any number of household items.

You can start your garden with vegetables that are easy to grow from seed, like lettuce, spinach and other greens. To keep things simple, for vegetables like tomatoes you many want to use small plants that you buy from a nursery or store instead of starting them from seeds. If you decide to grow your vegetables in the ground but don’t have enough space for a separate bed, you can incorporate them into existing flower beds, which is called “edible landscaping.”

It’s healthy. You’ll be picking your vegetables at their peak, when they taste best and are most nutritious. In addition, when you grow your own vegetables, you know exactly what you’re eating because you control whether or not to use pesticides or chemicals.

It’s good for the planet. Not only do home grown vegetables taste better, they’re good for the environment. Vegetables from your garden don’t require the use of fossil fuels to transport them from where they’re grown to where they’re eaten. They don’t need packaging, which helps reduce what ends up in a landfill.

Elaine Garry is a Master Gardener Volunteer intern with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Westchester.

Happy Earth Day Screen-Freers!

We recently made a great, simple DIY dirt bin to keep our kids busy in the backyard. Okay, let’s be honest. Our kids have no trouble keeping themselves busy in our backyard. However, our one-year-old has been getting a little too busy in our garden beds. We decided we could keep him and his big sister happy with a home-made dirt box. We are all for our kids getting dirty in naturally occurring dirt, but Screen-Free dad has spent some long hours landscaping. This dirt box helped us find a happy medium.

My kids get really dirty. Sometimes the one-year-old eats things that are not food, like dirt. You know that saying, “You don’t have to be a perfect parent, to be a parent?” Yeah, we use that often around here. I LOVE when there is research behind the things we already do. Turns out, filthy kids are healthier. And eating a little dirt now and then isn’t going to hurt them. Science has spoken. My kids are dirty because of science.

Being exposed to dirt and germs outside is related to lower cardiovascular risk in adulthood.1 There’s also research to suggest that touching soil is related to improved mood and learning via serotonin production stimulated by a friendly bacteria found in earth.2

This is just one reason why getting your kids outside is one of our 5 essential daily screen-free activities for kids.
Multiple Uses

Because we have a 1 year-old, our focus here is a dirt sensory box, but this box will make a perfect light weight mobile herb and vegetable garden. We plan to adapt this box to grow produce in the future. If you have older kids, you can jump straight to planting and teaching your kids about growing your own food.

How to make a DIY Dirt Sensory Box

Here is a video Screen-Free Dad produced highlighting our construction of the dirt sensory box. Below the video you can view step-by-step instructions. We also created a printable plan for our dirt bin along with a shopping list so you can knock this project out quickly like we did.

Here is a photo run down of this project:

Above is everything we bought for this project and the tools used to assemble the project. Note that nothing is pressure treated for outdoor use. This was done on purpose because our 1 year old gnaws on everything and part of the purpose of this project was to provide him with a safe place to go nuts. .

The sheet of plywood will be cut down to form the bottom. The two wide plank boards (2 x 10’s) will form the sides, and the long thin board (2 X 4) was used to cut the legs. It was much more wood then we needed, but the scrap will be used for future projects.

Download the full shopping list and plans on this page.

Our daughter is an awesome helper during projects like this. Project time is a great time to teach your kids basic skills like “measure twice, cut once”

Safety and kids during DIY time

Safety is key when doing DIY projects with small children. A few tips:

  1. Always wear proper safety gear (goggles, ear protection, and gloves).
  2. Keep your kids at a safe distance when lifting heavy things or using a saw.
  3. Unplug or place power tools in “lock” position when not in use.
  4. Never leave the kids unattended with tools.

Learning to accurately mark straight lines

In addition to helping with safe portions of the project such as measuring and marking for cuts, the kids used their own toy tools during this project.

Before you panic, this is a toy saw.

Assembly of the Bin

Once we completed all of the cuts, it was time to assemble the bin.

Our daughter got involved in the planning and problem solving.

This is how the bottom looks installed. We placed screws every 6″ and then drilled about 30 holes in the bottom to ensure good drainage of water in the bin. The final step was to install some weed barrier and staple it in place.

The kids flock to the bin like moths to a flame. The Miracle-Gro Nature’s Care organic garden soil we chose from Home Depot was light and fluffy and perfect for the bin.

That’s it! This project turned out to be a great family activity for us and we expect to get tons of enjoyment out of it for the next few years. Once our son matures, we look forward to turning this into a mobile herb and vegetable garden for the kids. So get out there, get dirty, be safe and have fun!

Below is a nice long pin-able image: pin it and add this to your to-do list!

Pin this Raised Garden Bed Dirt Bin to your DIY to do list!

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