Preview: Want to start a container garden with your kids? This post shares easy ways to get a garden growing that you and your children will love.
When starting a garden with kids, you want to START SMALL. I can’t emphasize this enough. Smaller is better. It is much easier to tend a small garden and you and your kids are less likely to get overwhelmed. That is why I think growing a garden in containers is a great way to get started gardening with kids.
Container gardens are easier to maintain than an in-ground garden too. There is much less weeding that will need to be done, though you may have to water a bit more often. Container gardens are also less likely to have as many pests, since the potting soil you purchased shouldn’t have insects in it.
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What Kinds Of Containers Can You Use to Start A Container Garden With Kids?
There are many things you can use to grow a few veggies, herbs, and flowers. Tubs, buckets, or planters work great. You may even have a few laying around the house that you could re-purpose. If using re-purposed items, be certain that they did not contain any harmful chemicals.
You also need to be sure that whatever type of container you choose has drainage holes in the bottom. If the pot doesn’t have drainage holes, drill some. Without drain holes, your plants may get water-logged and rot.
You can tuck several of these planters in sunny locations around your yard and grow a few different vegetables without much work. The only downside to gardening in containers is that they dry out quickly therefore they will need to be watered frequently.
No Containers? Try Grow Bags
If you don’t have containers, you can purchase grow bags. They are a cheaper alternative if you need to purchase something to start a garden with your children. You can grow many different vegetables in these lightweight bags. Grow bags are also easier to store at the end of the season since they fold flat.
There are several crops that are actually easier to grow in containers with kids. Potatoes are super easy and fun to grow in containers and when you are ready to harvest, you just dump the container out and find the potatoes.
I also like to grow carrots in containers. Here in North Carolina, we have red clay soil. It is difficult to grow carrots in the ground. However they perform beautifully in containers.
Lettuce also does well and if you get a sudden heat wave, you can move the lettuce into the shade to keep it from bolting as quick.
Choosing the Location for Your Container Garden
Choosing the proper location is important for your kid’s container garden. First, you want to be sure to place your garden in an area that gets sun most of the day. The majority of vegetables need a minimum of 8 hours of sunlight to grow well. (If you don’t have much sun, check out this list of vegetables to grow in the shade.)
But if possible, find an area of sunlight near your house. Placing your garden near your house will make it easier to maintain it. Weeding and picking your vegetables will be much more convenient if your container garden is close by.
You also want your container garden to have easy access to a water source. Your kids will take pride in watering their container garden, but they won’t enjoy hauling buckets of water across the yard.
What to Plant in Your Container Garden
Kids love to plant a garden, so let them do as much of the planting as possible. Some easy vegetables for kids to grow from seeds include peas, beans, squash, zucchini, radishes, carrots, and lettuce.
I recommend purchasing plants from the store for vegetables like bell peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, and cauliflower.
For more information on choosing vegetables that are easy to grow with kids, check out this post.
If you want to grow fruit with your children, I recommend strawberries. You can usually find a good variety of strawberries at your local garden center. For children, the potted plants will be easier to plant than bare-root crowns.
Herbs are also fun to grow with kids. Cilantro, basil, and dill all grow well from seed, but you can purchase plants for these and many others at your local nursery. Most popular herbs can easily be grown in containers and you can combine several in one container for a complete herb garden.
And herbs are fun for children to use too. Kids love to sprinkle a few pieces of chives across a baked potato or top their chicken with a sprinkle of parsley. And you can usually steal a few leaves from herbs shortly after planting. Instant gratification for the kids!
There are quite a few flowers that do well in containers too. Sunflowers are one of my favorite and they also produce food too. Choose a dwarf variety for your containers.
Other flower options include zinnias, violas, nasturtiums, marigolds, dianthus, and calendula.
Vegetables & Fruits That Don’t Do Well In Containers
There are a few fruits and vegetables that will be difficult to grow in containers with your kids. Fruits like watermelon and cantaloupe take so much room, it is difficult to get a container large enough to grow them in without watering several times a day.
Vegetables like corn and okra are also not really suited to growing in containers either. Most okra grows pretty tall and is likely to get knocked over by the wind. And corn is wind pollinated and needs be grown in rows of at least 4 for a successful harvest. It is very difficult to grow enough corn in containers for that pollination to occur.
Things to Purchase
There are several things you need to have on hand or purchase to start a container garden with your kids.
- seeds or plants
- containers or grow bags
- good quality potting soil for growing vegetables
- plant markers, optional (Here are some ways to make your own plant markers if you want another craft to do with your kids.)
- hose or watering can
How To Plant A Container Garden With Kids
First, have your children fill the container with potting soil. Choose a good quality soil not dirt from your yard. Potting soil has fertilizer and amendments in it that will help hold water so you don’t have to water as often.
If planting seeds, have the children poke a hole in the soil to the depth recommended on the package and put a seed in the hole. For small seeds like carrots and radishes, it will be easier to have the kids sprinkle the seeds on top of the soil and add another thin layer of soil on top of the seeds.
For plants, have your children dig a hole in the soil a bit larger than the plant. If the plant is root-bound, gently spread the roots out a bit. It is okay if a few accidentally tear. Place the plant in the hole and gently fill the soil in around the plant.
Alternatively, you can leave off some soil in the container. Place the plants on top, and then fill in soil around the plants to the depth of the root ball. This is sometimes easier if you are planting multiple plants in one pot.
Once you are done planting each pot, have your children water their container garden well.
Container Garden Combos
You don’t have to plant each conatiner with all the same plants, but you do need to be sure they have similar sun and water requirements. I’ve shared a few sample container garden “recipes” below to help guide you as you start a container garden with your kids.
- Carrots and radishes-You will harvest the radishes long before the carrots are ready.
- Calendula, sage, and oregano makes a pretty herb garden.
- Plant lettuce underneath a tomato plant. By the time the tomato needs the room, the lettuce will have gone to seed.
- Squash or Zucchini and nasturtiums. The nasturtiums help repel squash bugs too. Lettuce can also be planted with the squash.
- Plant a cucumber up a tomato cage or trellis and under-plant it with carrots, lettuce, Swiss chard, or spinach.
Kid’s Garden Journal
When starting a container garden with kids, there are many lessons they can learn along the way. I created a simple Kid’s Garden Journal where children can record information they learn about growing their own vegetables.
You can get a copy of the journal by signing up below. You’ll find it in my FREE Resource Library.
What To Do With Your Container Garden At The End Of The Season
At the end of the season, it is a good idea to empty the containers of all soil. If you want to reuse some of the soil next season, pull out all old plant material and the majority of the roots. Add the roots and dead plant matter to the compost pile unless there was signs of disease.
Store the soil to be re-used in a container. Next season mix the old soil with some new soil and additional compost to revitalize it and provide proper nutrients to your vegetables. Clean the containers and dry them and store them in a building or garage out of the elements.
Growing a garden with your kids is a fun learning activity. Plus the whole family benefits from fresh food. Have you ever grown a garden with your children? What were their favorite things to grow?