By: Laura Hatch
Getting your kids to garden is a great way to connect them with nature and disconnect them from the TV and computer. It can also expand their culinary horizons if you have an edible garden because kids love to taste what they grow. Try a pizza herb garden, and they’ll expand their tastes with new fresh herbs. With an indoor garden, you can grow plants in small spaces year-round. Ready to get started? Here are five tips to get you on your way.
Keep it simple
When it comes to indoor gardening with kids, start with just a few plants. Kids can be impatient, so pick plants that grow quickly and easily indoors. Try beans, peas, lettuce, and herbs (check out dwarf varieties, especially for peas). Let your kids help choose the plants, so they’re invested in the process. As your kids get older, expand your indoor garden and give them more responsibility.
Keep it small
You can use almost any kind of container to hold your plants as long as they have holes in the bottom for drainage. For an indoor garden, keep in mind pint-sized kids do better with pint-sized pots. They also need tools that fit nicely in their little hands and a watering can they can carry when full. Once they prove they’re up to the task, you might reward them with a pair of gardening gloves and a hat.
Keep it growing
A crucial ingredient for a healthy indoor garden is quality soil. Your local garden shop or nursery can help you choose the right potting mix for the type of plants you’re planning to grow. Outdoor soil isn’t the best choice for indoor plants. It’s too heavy and won’t leave enough space for air, root growth, or water.
Speaking of water, too much of it is not a good thing. Overwatering is the biggest killer of indoor plants. Teach your kids to water only when the plants need it, rather than on a regular schedule. Have them feel the soil and water when it’s dry to the touch.
Follow the light
Where you place your indoor garden depends on what you’re growing and how much light your plants need. Place herbs, root and leaf vegetables near windows or in window sills that get a good amount of light. Windows that face south or west will provide the most light. East and north-facing windows are great choices for house plants that don’t need as much light. Place pots on saucers, small plates or plastic trays to avoid water damage to your window sills.
Keep it fun
Keep your kids stay interested in their garden by making the process fun. Let them know it’s okay to get dirty! Encourage them to feel the soil with their fingers. (You may want to start your plants outside on a picnic table, then bring them inside!) Assign tasks and responsibilities that are age-appropriate. Teach them how to use the basic gardening tools safely. Let them be the gardeners as much as possible, with you serving as their guide.
Indoor gardening is a great way to introduce your kids to the science and art of getting plants to grow. If they like it enough, they may want to use their skills on a larger scale and grow a garden in the great outdoors.
Laura Hatch is a journalist and the busy mom of three sons. Her sons have graduated from learning how to plant vegetables to mowing the lawn and helping her trim trees.