Kids love container gardening

When there is a weird weather year, container gardening is a good solution for a family that has a small space, poor soil, or simply wants to start gardening. Container planting is perfect for children and a great family teaching tool. The pots can be moved around as needed.

What to do

Check out library books about plants and gardening. Draw some plant parts and discuss their jobs. Teach young children some vocabulary. Annuals only grow one year, but kids may collect the seeds of annuals like marigolds and plant them again next year. Perennials like daisies and coneflowers may come back next year if left in a warm garage.

Show children how to study the back of seed packets. How long will the plants take to grow? Look for the shortest growing season. How much space will they need? Follow packet directions.

Start with just a few containers and try your luck. Practically any type of container can be used to grow plants as long as it holds potting soil (not garden soil), a little plant fertilizer, can drain water, and is large enough to accommodate the growing plants and roots.

Teach principles of growing

Most plants need about six hours of sunshine. Lettuce and spinach need a little less. Place the plants in a space where they will not be too hot and killed. They can be moved if children discover it is the wrong spot.

Vegetables require larger pots than annual flowers. Tomatoes, for example, grow well in 5-gallon buckets. Peppers will grow in containers about 8 inches in diameter and 10 inches tall. Beets need eight inches of soil. Carrots need twelve inches for their long roots.

Containers filled with plants like mixed lettuce seeds are a good way to start young children gardening. Choose several large pots. Mix small seeds with a little soil. Fill pots with potting soil, plant seeds, and water gently. Cover the pots with plastic wrap secured with a large rubber band until seeds start sprouting. Then move the pots into the sun.

Plant care

Plants need just the right amount of water and fertilizer. Teach children not to drown plants in mud nor let them wilt. The soil should make a moist crumbly ball. Children can stick their finger in the soil to test for moisture and then wash their hands.

Children may not like to eat lettuce yet, but they will enjoy cutting fresh lettuce for family meals. Mixed greens offer a variety of colors and tastes. Even if they only eat one leaf, teach children to wash the edible plants and their hands before eating.

Other easy plants to grow are beans, peas, herbs, gourds for fall decoration and to sell, petunias, and small sunflowers. To discourage rabbits, deer, and squirrels plant marigolds, too. (Planting part two is next time.)

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Editor’s note: Grandparents Teach ,Too is a non profit organization of elementary and preschool teachers from Marquette, Michigan. Writers include: Jan Sabin, Mary Davis, Jean Hetrick, Cheryl Anderegg, Esther Macalady, Colleen Walker, Fran Darling, and Iris Katers.Their mission since 2009 is to help parents, grandparents, and other caregivers of young children provide fun activities to help prepare young children for school and a life long love of learning. They are supported by Great Start, Parent Awareness of Michigan (PAM), Upper Peninsula Association for the Education of Young Children (UPAEYC), Northern Michigan School of Education, U.P. Children’s Museum, and NMU Center for Economic Education.