Tips for Gardening with Kids

By Kerrie McLoughlin

• Composting is a fun, green aspect of gardening because kids get to toss “trash” into the garden (egg shells, coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable shavings and rinds, etc.). You can make the entire garden a compost pile in the off season, and if you like you can leave a section for composting year-round.

• Make sure you have kid-size tools available for your budding gardener to keep him interested. For Small Hands ( offers child-size gardening tools like gloves, shovels, watering cans, kneeling pads, small buckets for weeds, small aprons and totes for tools and more.

• Consider planting most of the plot as a Family Garden, but save one entire section for your child’s own garden and make your child responsible for it. If she doesn’t fall in love with gardening, make the watering of and weed pulling in the entire garden chores she gets a small allowance for. And be sure to relax your own standards. For instance, who cares if the rows are not planted perfectly?

• Help your child make the garden his own. Decorate plant markers with the kids. Make stepping stones using a kit. We have lattice screen my husband cut to make a short fence to keep animals out of the garden, and the kids can paint it their own way.

• Don’t tell the kids they are learning stuff. How much will it cost to buy enough tomato plants to fill half of our space? How many feet by how many feet is our garden, and how many different things can I plant in it? Could we plant an ABC garden if we have room for 26 small plants?

• Get the kids involved. Take them along to pick out seeds at the garden store or spend an afternoon poring over a seed catalog before making final decisions on what to plant. Their faces will light up when they get to pick green beans for dinner or grab some mint for their lemonade. Soft lamb’s ear, fragrant lavender and basil make a great addition to a fruit and veggie garden.

• Have a garden-to-table pizza party where the toppings come from your own garden. Learn how to can your goodies at so you can save them for another day, and give some as holiday gifts. Can fruits and vegetables as-is or doctor them up (salsa, pie filling, jam and so much more!). Sometimes you might end up with so much ripe bounty that you need to find people to share with.

• Great Gardening Books
Green Thumbs: A Kid’s Activity Guide to Indoor and Outdoor Gardening by Laurie Carlson

Grow Your Own Pizza: Gardening Plans and Recipes for Kids by Constance Hardesty and Jeff McClung

The Ultimate Step-by-Step Kids’ First Gardening Book: Fantastic Gardening Ideas for 5-12 Year Olds, from Growing Fruit and Vegetables and Having Fun with Flowers to Indoor and Outdoor Nature Projects by Jenny Hendy

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