How to show your children how to enjoy a small garden

Vegetable gardenGardens come in all sizes and shapes.  We fit into the small garden category – ‘Small enough to keep under control and big enough to provide a great learning environment.’  What a great way to educate the children.

Make sure you choose a well sheltered area that gets many hours of sunlight.  Let your child help prepare the soil. Dirt can be turned over with a small shovel or trowel and clumps can be broken up by hand or by ‘stomping’ on them.

Choose easy to grow plants and as many different ones as you can get into the small space.  Carrots, radishes, lettuces and dwarf butter beans are good vegetable choices.   Mini cauliflower, mini cabbage and mini broccoli are a great idea for small or planter gardens.  Herbs are great to add to meals parsley, thyme, rosemary, chives, peppermint and mint.  Strawberries are also fun to grow.

If you would rather flowers snapdragons, sunflowers, daffodils and sweetpeas are quick and easy to grow.

Our family has a corner garden, approximately 1m x 1m, that spends a lot of the day in the shade during winter, so we decided to plant some seed potatoes and have had great success.  Some rhubarb plants were offered to us and we planted them in the shady garden too and our children enjoy the produce from their garden in many meals and tasty recipes.

Mint goes hand in hand with new potatoes.  Be warned mint takes over the garden and needs to be contained.  You may find a black polythene tub useful, in my case, we sat the tub within our garden and planted the mint in it.

Children love to water – particularly at full force of the hose. You will want to remind them that rain usually falls a little more gently and that they should imitate the rain. A personalized sprinkling can is a good idea for younger children.

If you do not have a sunny patch of ground (6 hours of direct sun a day is needed for best results), then try gardening in containers. You can grow many things in all sorts of containers, and half the fun is finding odd and unusually shaped things to hold the soil.  A good quality potting soil should be purchased for containers instead of using dirt from the yard. Since containers dry out much more quickly, the plants will be even more dependent on regular, daily care for survival and success. Regular feeding with liquid plant food will also be part of the routine.

Young children love growing seeds and sprouts indoors, and you don’t need a lot of things to get started. Simply use an empty egg carton as your seed tray, fill each compartment with potting mix, and plant your seeds. Bean seeds and grass seeds grow quickly, so children get results before they lose interest.  Cactus gardens, Venus fly Traps and Sundew plants captivate children.

Children can attract butterflies to the garden by planting swan plants, buddlea, heliotrope (Cherry Pie), alyssum, lavender, tweedia and snapdragons.  Birds can also be attracted by planting bottle brush, kowhai, flax and pittosporum.

Tools for children are available that are small and fit their size. Short handled shovels and rakes, hand tools and a small wheel barrow can make a child’s gardening efforts more enjoyable and productive.


There are quite a few websites and clubs that the children can join. and  Ambassador Irene van Dyk does a wonderful job of promoting gardening for children.  This site is full of information for school and home.  There are activity sheets and loads of giveaways to sign up for.  A wonderful added extra is the Raxi Maxi Kids Club which the children can sign up to and enter competitions and receive newsletters. – Kids Pages – has some great kids’ projects.  At the bottom of the page there is “More Kids Projects” drop down box with more detailed ideas available. – Under “Upcoming Projects” click on “browse projects by region”.  This takes you to a New Zealand map and lets you select your region and see if any projects are available in your area. – This site has loads of information on worm composting, bins and worms in schools. – Suzy’s World is full of great fact sheets about all sorts of things.  I checked out worms which was quite interesting.


Starting Gardening – With Internet Links

A colourful, practical guide to simple gardening projects – outdoor and indoor – for young gardening enthusiasts, including ivy topiary, fern garden in a bottle, spring bulbs and salad vegetables. Step-by-step explanations and helpful pictures make it easy for a beginner to acquire all the necessary skills, and to have fun growing things.

Bill Ward’s Edible Garden

If you want your child to know more about gardening and growing their own plants from seed, then this is the book for them! They’ll find out what tools they need and how to plant seeds, about weeding, thinning and feeding their baby plants. They’ll discover who their garden friends are and find out who’s just waiting to eat their juicy new plants!

The Gardening Book by Jane Bell

This title offers fun things to create throughout the year whether they live in a city flat or on a farm.  It includes sections on basic gardening skills, creative techniques and craft activities.

Yates Gardening for Kids by Janice Marriott

Yates Gardening for kids has directions for sowing seeds of Yates Sunflower Yellow Express.  There are activities and much more.  Did you know that after you’ve eaten your boiled egg for breakfast, you can turn the empty shell into a green-haired monster?  All the instructions are here.

Yates Growing Things to Eat by Janice Marriott

A cheerful, colourful and easy to read book that is filled with illustrations to make turning each page a joy.  It shows kids lots of fruit and vegetables to grow and eat allowing them to choose the foods they like and grow their own feast.   It includes games, puzzles and experiments.

Great Gardens for Kids by Clare Matthews

Packed with unique and exciting ideas, “Great Gardens for Kids” shows how to create a garden to delight, entertain and educate children of all ages. A book with lots of great simple ideas including sailing boat sandpit; rope spider’s web; pebble mosaic hopscotch; climbing wall; daffodil maze; foldaway playhouse; flowery hideaway; suspended tent; vine teepee;  mosaic table; grass stools; growing bench;  that will delight children of all ages.

Kitchen Garden Cooking With Kids by Stephanie Alexander

120 recipes with simple instructions and fun facts.  Alongside the muffins and slices are homemade pastas, indian curries, Asian tea eggs and vegetable-rich winter soups.

Kitchen Garden Cooking with Kids also tells the story behind the recipes of the Kitchen Garden at Collingwood College, which Stephanie set up in 2001 in the grounds of a large inner-city school.  It includes plans, activities and lists that together make up a blueprint that other schools may wish to follow.  The program has given hundreds of primary-school children the opportunity to plant, grow, harvest, cook and eat tge very best kind of food – freshly grown, organic, unprocessed and delicious.

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