Kids love to do things with people they love and admire. There is an evolutionary drive for them to mimic, an emotional NEED. If you garden, this is the perfect thing to keep them entertained. Give them there own little patch of ground (a few feet by a few feet will be plenty) and allow them to try, and succeed or fail, as their own independent person. Let them know you’re available for help and advice, but the fate of their plantings are in their hands.
Or, if you’re not much of a gardener, or don’t have much ground to speak of, growing plants in a window sill is quite educational and even valuable.
There are many things around the house for your kid to plant if their first planting fails and you don’t have seeds. Here is a list of things that will usually sprout. (Check internet for optimal instructions.)
- Dry beans
- Raw sunflower seeds
- Pineapple (tops)
If you’re short on money this Christmas, you could put a garden kit together for free. Cottage cheese/sour cream container (label can be removed with some good fingernail polish remover). Some rich soil (start composting if you don’t have any). And any seeds you can find around the house. Look up planting instructions and write them down or print them out. I know it sucks being poor, kids don’t need money and fancy presents to be happy.
BUT!!! If you want to put a little money in MY pocket, so I don’t have to give my little girl home-made crap, and so I can spoil her rotten. Here are some items you can get on Amazon (still cheap).
If you have hard/dense soil and your kid is strong enough to bust it up you might want to find something a little more sturdy. This plastic trowel is best for looser soil that a child could manage. I picked it specifically because of the lack of sharp edges. Not them I’m against kids using sharp tools under supervision, but having a child coordinately stab the ground with a mildly sharp trowel while you try and do your gardening in not what you want.
I think I’ve seen plastic trowels at Walmart and the Dollar Tree for around $1, and you can always just use your hands.
Get some basic vegetable seeds. Its likely some of these will fail, different plants prefer different temperatures, nutrients and soil pH. If your child is into gardening they will spend years learning those details, in the short term the easiest way to overcome this is just by planting a variety of plants. Kids will eat vegetables they grow themselves. Teach them how they can prepare some themselves, maybe a few basic microwave recipes if they’re old enough, and have them make their own snacks when they’re hungry. Starting around 3 kids start to relish independence and will behave better when given some (or at least the illusion of some), and food is an easy one to give when it’s easy to clean-up/low-mess vegetables.
You can grow herbs outside, but for potted plants I like herbs the best! You can grow them year round and have fresh herbs ready to go, you’re kids will love if you use their herbs in meals, its nice to feel productive. Herbs are one of the best cost/benefit items to grow at home as fresh herbs are ridiculously expensive, and they’re usually fairly easy, happy with good soil and water.
Or there’s these ones that are a little cheaper but honestly I’m only including them because they come with cartoon veggies on the cover (herb and veggie collections both). So maybe they’ll make a better presentation for a kid, idk.
Making good soil from compost is a science unto its own. You can throw organic waste into a bin in the back yard and stir it occasionally and get decent results, but making good soil is a little bit more of a challenge. When starting out you want to give you’re kid every chance at success to get them hooked, good potting soil is a decent guarantee.
You could get a regular pot in a variety of sizes, or…
This is a self watering pot. All that means is that there is room in the bottom the water sits in and wicks up the soil so it doesn’t dry out so fast. You can make your own by putting a smaller container punched full of holes, upside down in a bigger container. You wanna make sure there is room around the edges for a little bit of soil to get down below the water level.
But they’re also really cheap.
I think starting plants is usually an unnecessary step. I’ve rarely had an issue growing typical vegetables or herbs in good soil. However, I have really fond memories of plant starters, watching every day as they get a little bigger on the window sill. You also have the advantage of avoiding a late frost killing your kids plants and killing the fun in the process, there is plenty of time for that lesson when they’re a little older.
If you’re going plants inside it can be difficult to get enough light in some climates, and some plants need a little more light. There’s also the issue of space on a window sill, and if you want plants there. A grow light easy way to fix this and insure a plant gets enough light. Florescent lights will work, some of the more yellow ones will leave your plants a little yellow (that’s just a coincidence, the bluer light has more energy in it). This light will fit in any regular desk lamp, uses as much power as a cellphone charger, and if you position it close to the plant will produce plenty of light for a potted plant.
Most people have a vision of how fast and big plants grow, if you really want to get into it you can really super charge plants that might break those preconceptions. There are a few things to make plants grow ridiculous. Air. To the roots. Serious, roots need air. Don’t over water plants that aren’t meant for it and make sure you have some kind of perlite so the soil isn’t too dense and gets enough oxygen to the roots.
Light. Many plants grow HUGE during Alaskan summers do to the long daylight hours. You’ll use more energy, but you can grow a lot more in a shorter time period if you use some grow lights, especially indoors.
Good luck, may the growth be with you!