Step 1: Make it FIT
Come on a growing journey with me as I rediscover my love of gardening. I’ll be sharing tips, tricks and ideas from IFA gardening enthusiasts and experts with you as I build a kid-friendly garden for my own toddler.
by Emily Newhouse
One of my earliest memories is sitting between rows in my mom’s garden and picking snow peas. I never needed a pail because the pods went straight from the vine into my mouth. As I grew up I started to do more in the garden than just ‘quality control’ as I began implementing skills my mom taught me about planting, weeding, harvesting and storing.
My husband and I both come from gardening families, yet it’s been years since I’ve grown my own corn or ate a BLT made with my own garden-fresh lettuce and tomatoes. But after the wild ride of 2020, I decided it was time to get back to my gardening roots. To help me get started, I turned to my IFA coworkers for advice on how to create a garden that will help me pass on our family history and love of self-sustained growing to my toddler. Their suggestions apply to any age, experience level, living situation or budget, and will help get us all off to a great growing start. I hope these tips and ideas will get you excited about gardening with your family this summer as well.
Scale & Accessibility
Kids live in a world where everything is almost always too big, too tall, too hard or too heavy for them. Sizing their garden down to their scale will help your little ones feel like they belong in their garden, and that the garden belongs to them.
Adding to an Existing Garden
For those with existing backyard gardens, you can simply set aside a 3×3 or 4×4 foot area in a sunny corner to start your little’s very own space. Make sure you prep the soil the same way you would for the rest of the garden area before getting started, so the ground is workable for their little hands. If the soil is hard, or full of clay or rocks, it may be too difficult for them and they could become discouraged.
A simple way to make your kid’s garden space feel extra special is to put a colorful border around the edges, such as small painted rocks or colorful shells to create an attractive, kid-friendly edging. Fun or silly signs like “Timmy’s Tomatoes”, “Daffodil Lane” or “No bunnies allowed”.
For any pathways through or around your child’s garden, lay a fine bark mulch 2–3″ deep to cut down on mud and weeds. The mulch will also make for a good soil amendment when you till it in next spring.
Containers & Raised Beds
Raised beds and containers are great options to create a special children’s garden space. These can be especially ideal for very young gardeners who might be tempted to climb on or walk over plants. If you decide to go with raised beds for your kid’s garden, make sure they are low enough for littles to easily access and work in.
For container gardening, look for low containers with good drainage and a wide base, since a narrow base will make it easier for adventurous gardeners to accidentally knock over. Be careful about using bricks or plant stands to raise your kid’s garden containers off the ground since they make tipping more likely.
3 or 5–gallon buckets are a good size and shape for kids with enough room for plants to grow while also being a good height for littles to access. Make sure there are several small holes in the bottom of the bucket for drainage, we want excess water to drain out but soil to stay in.
Grow Up (not out) with Supports
Regardless of whether your child’s garden is in a container or in the ground—trellises, teepees, cages and ladders all make it easier to garden in small spaces by supporting plants so they grow up instead of out. Supports let little ones see their veggies, fruits or flowers growing and give them better access to help out when harvest time comes.
It’s easy to build your own garden supports; all it takes is a few YouTube searches and a trip to the hardware store. Cattle panels are one simple, affordable and versatile option to create a vertical garden. Check out our blog for more details and instructions on how cattle panels can be used to build five different trellises with minimal work. But if DIY isn’t your thing—or if time is a scarce resource—you can find plenty of prefab options for purchase at any nursery, home-improvement store or your local IFA Country Store.
Grow the (little) people you love
As the winter fades and the days grow lighter, I find myself pouring over bright, colorful seed catalogs just like I did as a kid. Only this time, I’m planning a garden for my own child, with lots of extra snow peas so we can sit together and eat them straight off the vine.
Information for this article was provided by Marvin Potter, Live Plant Category Manager, IFA Country Store; Brenda Christopherson, Garden Center Manager, Ogden IFA Country Store; and Emily Newhouse, Marketing, IFA.
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