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25 Family Gardening Ideas

By Lynn Wilson

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Time in nature gives both parents and children time to be together in meaningful ways, reducing stress and providing shared opportunities that children may remember well into adulthood. Getting hands in the dirt will be a fun experience for the whole family. Whether you have space for a large garden or just a container, try some of these gardening activities!

1. Plant A Little Garden: Get a head start on spring planting. There are many types of small seedling trays that allow for the start-up of seeds. Some quick-to-grow seeds are Marigold, Candytuft, Cornflower, Nasturtium (leaves and seedpods can be eaten) and Mallow. Most of these germinate in 1-3 weeks – then plant away.

2. Plant A Teeny, Tiny Garden: Using a cardboard egg carton after giving it a wash, fill the egg holes with soil and plant seeds in each hole. Water carefully and when the seedlings are about an inch long, carefully cut the egg sections apart and plant the seedling carton and all in the ground. Watch what happens to the carton as it slowly disintegrates.

3. Pizza Garden: Choose herbs and plants that will be a welcome addition to a homemade pizza. You could make the garden in a circle shape just like a pizza. Divide into sections and add plum tomatoes, peppers, onions, parsley, oregano, garlic, sweet basil etc.

4. Salsa Garden: Onions, garlic bulbs, tomato seedlings, chilli pepper seedling, green pepper, coriander seedlings, and marigolds to keep the bugs away. Harvest, chop and eat!

5. Salad Garden: Plant everything you need for a salad – radishes, beets, edible carrot leaf, lettuce (there are lots of varieties), cucumber, cherry tomatoes, scallions, and spinach!

6. Garden Salad Basket: Find a large wicker basket and line it with plastic. Add soil and compost and plant a variety of lettuce seeds or seedlings. Plant Oak Leaf Lettuce, Boston Lettuce, Ruby Red, Spinach, Arugula, Mustard etc.

7. Tea Garden: Plant peppermint, lavender, lemon verbena, harvest rose hips, bergamot, marjoram, chamomile, jasmine, coriander, thyme, rosemary, violets for example. You can purchase small gauze tea bags and make your own special teas!

8. A Rainbow Garden: Create a bed in the shape of a rainbow and have the children decide where the plants of the same colour should go until their beautiful rainbow is complete. Finding a book that explains how rainbows are made will enhance this experience.

9. Smelly Garden: Plant fragrant Roses, Lavender, Lemon Thyme, Sage, Lemon Balm, Geraniums, Sweet Alyssum, Lemon Verbena, Viburnum, Peonies, Phlox, Lilies, Marigolds, Sweet Woodruff, Basil, Rosemary.

10. A Cactus Garden: Provide the children with a variety of succulents that survive in areas with little water. A great opportunity to talk about deserts. Have the children feel the plants carefully – how do

11. Dye Garden: Include plants that can be used to make dyes, such as Blackberries, Marigolds, Zinnias, Dahlias and Cosmos. Children can use the plants to dye material or use them for paints. Aboriginal practices include using Spinach or Moss to dye material green, Onion skins and Sunflowers for yellow and Beets for red.

12. Alphabet Garden: Find a flower or vegetable for every letter of the alphabet and plant it – i.e.: A is for Aster, B is for Balloon Flower – Z is for Zinnia! If space doesn’t allow for the whole alphabet, try spelling out the child’s name. The Hayes Valley Farm, an urban farming project in San Francisco has posted many photos of their Alphabet Garden and lists plants for planting from A-Z!

13. Name Garden: Look through seed catalogues, gardening magazines and visit a local nursery to find plants that have your children’s names and plant them in a special name garden – Jack-In-The Pulpit, Johnny Jump Up, Sweet William, Rowan, Basil, Sage, Heather, Hyacinth, Iris, Lily, Rose, Violet etc.

14. Mystery Garden: Take a variety of seeds and mix them together. Plant and wait for the results.

15. Popcorn Garden: Fill a pie plate with potting soil and plant the kernels.

16. An Organic Garden: Ann Lovejoy’s Organic Garden Design School is an excellent book for those who want to start an organic garden.

17. Plant An Herb Garden: There are so many fragrant and interesting herbs to plant. A visit to a local nursery will help you decide which ones to bring home.

18. Sunflower Garden: Organize a picnic lunch to be eaten under giant sunflowers. Encourage the children to imagine what it would be like to be a little person. Think Gulliver’s Travels!

19. Plant A Fairy Garden: There are several wonderful books about Fairies. You might read these stories to the children and then plan and plant a fairy garden. A good read is Fairy Houses Everywhere! by Tracy Kane and add some homes for your fairies. You can begin by drawing a big circle large enough that the children will be able to get inside and create a trench planting large grasses there. They will grow and provide a private space for the children. Don’t forget to leave a doorway! Plant away in the middle and include items such as leaves, wood chips, rocks, pine cones, sticks, little bells or chimes and anything that is safe that could be used for fairy dust!

20. Water Garden: What plants grow in water? If there is a nursery or water lily pond in your area, take the children to see it or if not, show a video clip of a water garden. Create your own water garden in an old aquarium or waterproof container and plant water plants. A large pot can be used as well that has a small pump to create a water feature. Your water feature is sure to lure frogs and toads to come and play!

21. Peter Rabbit Garden: Reading Beatrix Potter’s book may inspire the children to plant a garden that they think Peter Rabbit would love to visit.

22. Rock Garden: Start with a rock pile. Place the largest rocks at the bottom and the smaller ones on top. Make a layer of rocks then toss in soil and press down. Try planting Sweet Alyssum, Portulaca, Thyme, Lavender etc.

23. Mold Garden: Use a jar lid, and place bread, a piece of fruit or a tomato or any other leftover in the lid and leave for several weeks. What happens? Use magnifying glasses to see the changes that take place.

24. Butterfly Gardens: Butterflies love to visit certain plants looking for sweet nectar and they are attracted to flowers by both colour and scent. Some favourites are Butterfly Bush, Marigolds, Zinnias, Asters, Borage, Nasturtium, Milkweed, Sedum, Cosmos, Black-Eyed Susan, Bee Balm, Phlox, Snapdragons, Joe-Pye Weed etc. and plant them in a sunny spot. They like flowers with one solid colour and those with a strong sweet smell. Ask your local gardener for advice on the best picks for your neighbourhood. Most butterflies spend their time in the sun so the best time to look for butterflies is on a warm, sunny day without much wind. Binoculars will help you get a close up look.

25. Bulbs Only Garden: For a great spring showing, plants bulbs in the fall.