This post is sponsored by Toyota for National Tree Day.
Five years ago, the closest I got to this thing called “gardening” was watching it on TV. Somehow, somewhere along the way, after having kids, I became a gardening convert. I’ve got loads to learn still, but I really can say, I love gardening and wish I had more time for it. Why am I a gardening convert? Put simply – everyone should garden because having plants around you is good for you.
Toyota understands this and have partnered with Planet Ark to help individuals, families and schools reconnect with nature by getting out into nature and having fun in their local environment.
Planet Ark’s Valuing Trees: What is Nature Worth? report focuses on the value of nature. It explores the financial, environmental, social, and health and wellbeing benefits of having trees, plants and other natural elements in the workplace, at home, in the community and at school. It found that “…having plants in and around the workplace and classroom helps reduce sick leave and stress; boosts productivity and creativity; and filters and cleans the air.”
Getting children involved in gardening not only provides plants around them, which is good for their health, it also gives children an important opportunity to learn through active participation and experience. Gardening allows children to investigate, experiment, manipulate, contemplate, problem solve and succeed.
Children love to grow things.
Just a year ago, I started gardening with my children. Since then, we have:
- Laid new lawn in our garden;
- Planted beautiful trees along our back fence;
- Had a surprise guest at our front door;
- Planted some snow peas and watched them grow;
- Harvested some snow peas and planted a herb greenhouse and watch it grow;
- Bought new gardening supplies for our mini urban container veggie garden;
- Put the kids to work, gardening since they decided to give up on their afternoon naps;
- Planted sunflowers, dwarf sunflowers, carrots and corn.
Gardening with kids is a hands-on way to promote environmental and sustainability learning and connect children with healthy food and lifestyles. As my children have gardened, I have seen them adopt caring attitudes and values and demonstrate and apply a range of skills.
Every child can garden. Here are 25 ways to get kids gardening:
Prepare a Garden Bed:
- Mark out garden beds – Using pegs and string to mark out your garden bed.
- Clear the surface – Where possible pull weeds by hand.
- Loosen the soil surface – Break up the topsoil (about 20cms) to help aerate it.
- Add organic matter – Add compost or manure thickly over the surface. Five to 10cms is really good covering.
- Mix the organic matter with the soil – Using a fork or spade, gently mix the organic matter with the loosened soil surface.
- Leave the garden bed to settle – A great time to release some earthworms into the garden. Leave the garden to settle for at least two weeks.
- While the garden bed is settling – grow your seedlings; place boarders around your garden beds; place straw on pathways to suppress weeds.
- When your garden bed is ready for planting – remove any large weeds; rake the soil surface; measure out the areas where each plant will be planted and mark them with pegs and string.
Direct Sowing Seeds:
- Moisten soil – Soaking the soil two days before planting is most helpful for new seeds.
- Mark out rows – Using any long narrow stick, lie it along the garden bed where you wish to plant the row. Press the stick gently into the soil to create furrows to plant the seeds.
- Place seeds in the furrow – If the seeds are very small or fine, you can first mix the seed into a handful of sand and spread the seed/sand mix thinly along the furrow.
- Cover the seed – Make sure the seed is buried to the right depth.
- Water the seed – Use a fine mist spray.
- Keep bed moist – During germination the soil should not be allowed to dry out.
- Thin out plants – Once the new plants have merged you may need to thin out the number of plants.
- Before planting – water the seedlings to be transplanted the day before planting. Make sure the soil in the garden bed is moist for planting.
- Planting out – Mark where each seedling will be planted with a planting stick. Tip your punnet of seedlings upside down holding your hand over the top of the pun net to catch the seedlings. Gently tap the bottom of the punnet with your other hand until the seedlings and soil become loose from the punnet in one complete block. Be careful not to damage the fragile roots of the seedlings. Don’t plant too deeply.
- Water the seedlings immediately. Don’t let the soil dry out.
- Lay some organic mulch around the seedlings as soon as they are planted to keep the soil moist.
Growing plants in pots has been my favourite way to garden with my kids. It’s easier to weed, they are movable and because we can use quality potting mix, we aren’t limited to growing only those plants that will thrive in our (poor) garden soil.
There are many different types of pots for growing plants:
- Hanging baskets
- Terracotta pots
- Planter boxes
- Fabric bags
- Wall pouches
- Recycled materials – like old tyres, or eggshells.