Looking for a sure-fire way to beat back those winter blues? Start planning your spring garden today! The beginning of the year is the perfect time to plan your garden because depending on where you live, you may need to start your seedlings as early as the beginning of February. Plus, it will get you and your kids thinking about all the fun you’ll have once the weather gets warm again. What better way to put yourselves in a great mood than to think about playing out in the sunshine! If you’ve never planned a garden before, don’t worry. We have some great tips on how to plan an easy garden you and your kids can enjoy together!
Plan Your Garden Plot
Most vegetables require a minimum of six hours of sunshine a day to stay healthy. So watch the shade patterns in your yard. It’s best to find an area that faces south to get the most sunshine. You also want to find an area free of rocks or heavy roots that can make digging up the garden plot very difficult. Make sure the area has good drainage and isn’t near anything that can spread toxins into the soil like treated lumber, gas or utility lines, or septic tanks. Once you’ve found the perfect spot in your yard, measure to your space to get the perfect dimensions.
Learn About Your Climate Zone
Garden climate zones impact what plants can grow in your area based on the weather patterns. For example, if you live in Canada you won’t be able to grow orange trees that only thrive in the warmer climates of zones 9-11, but if you live in Florida you can’t grow cranberries that grow in the cooler climates zone of 2-5. This information is readily available online but you can also grab your kids and a take a field trip to your local county extension office. They have tons of information about local gardening and many provide first time gardening classes.
Test Your Soil
Every vegetable has unique soil requirements like alkalinity/acidity and specific nutrients. You can learn what each plant likes on the back the seed packets or by simply searching online. To tell the soil, you simply buy a simple soil test kit. Typically, they cost around $5 and can be found at nearly every garden center. They test the soil for alkalinity and acidity as well as for essential nutrients like potassium, nitrogen, and potash. Soil test kits are super and are a fun science experiment to do with children since the values are determined by different colors. Once you understand your soil, you can either amend the soil or choose plants based on soil requirements.
Pick Your Favorite Vegetables
Once you have the list of vegetables you can successfully grow in your area, get together with your kids and pick your favorites together. Unfortunately, only 2% of children are eating the recommended daily allowance of vegetables. Luckily though, getting them involved in planning a vegetable garden can get them excited about eating healthy. However, don’t be afraid to plant some vegetables your kids don’t like or have never tried. You’ll be amazed at how their attitude shifts about veggies when they’ve grown them themselves!
Learn About Organic Gardening Methods
There have been extensive studies that show that organic produce is healthier for you and the environment. However, organic produce is extremely expensive at the grocery store, so we often skip past it. Fortunately, growing organic food in your backyard garden is very inexpensive. So take a minute to read through some organic gardening methods. We recommend checking out companion planting and starting a compost pile right away. Both methods are tried and true and don’t require any extra investment.
Draw A Garden Map
Once you have your plot figured out and have picked your vegetables, it’s time to draw a garden map. A garden map is the best way to your planting organized and on schedule. The best part is this can be an extremely fun craft project for kids. You can draw out the map on a large piece of poster board and let your kids fill in each area with drawings, stickers, or stamps of the different vegetables. If your family prefers digital projects, there are some great free garden planning tools online like this one from Gardeners that lets you plan rows or the whole area or Zukeeni that also offers tons of supplemental gardening tips.
Shop For Colorful Vegetable Seeds
There are all kinds of cool heirloom and rare vegetables out there. Imagine how excited your children will be growing purple carrots, blue tomatoes, or rainbow Swiss chard. The best part is many of these funky colored vegetables actually contain higher nutrient values than their standard counterparts. The general rule is the darker the color of the vegetable, the healthier it is, so go nuts! There are plenty of places to get weird seeds. We love the selection at Baker Creek and Heirloom Seeds.
Go Ahead And Start Some Seedlings
You don’t have to wait all the way until spring, you can start your garden now by planting some seedlings that can be transplanted outdoors once the weather is nice! You just need to grab a simple seed starting kit, pick a spot in your home that gets a lot of sunlight like a window ledge, and get planting. If they are old enough, you can assign your kids watering duties to teach them responsibility. You can also plan some fun activities like picking a song to play the plants everyday or keeping a growth journal with drawings of how the plants go from seeds to full grown plants.
Planning your spring vegetable garden is a great activity to do together. Beyond helping beat back some of the winter doldrums, it is an educational experience that teaches your children about weather and climate, chemistry, and biology. Plus, it will get your kids more interested in eating healthy which is always a good thing!