Family gardening may seem a bit out of place in a collection of articles on limited gardening; however, it fits here quite well. Repeating what was said in the previous article, "if your garden takes more time to start and maintain than you have to allot it, the garden is destined to fail." This concept is very relevant to family gardening.
In this context, "family gardening" doesn't simply mean gardening with members of your family but focuses more on gardening with adults and children working together. Because you're working with children, giving your garden "limitations" can be the difference between a successful garden and a failed attempt to get the children interested in gardening.
Small raised flowerbeds and/or containers and pots are a good way to keep your gardens small and manageable. Depending on the age of the child, they can participate in everything from adding the soil (growing medium) to placing the plants into the soil. By not putting the plants directly into the ground, there is less worry over controlling grass and weeds even pests are a little easier to control with your garden lifted from the ground.
Limited time should also be factored into your family garden. Although "assuming" is usually considered a bad thing to do, it should be accepted that a child is likely to give a very limited amount of attention to their garden. With that in mind, make sure the plants you choose to populate your garden are as hardy and low maintenance as possible. Of course you'll want to encourage your little helpers to water and feed their plants as regularly as possible, but it's still wise to have plants that can skip a watering/feeding or two and be alright.
Try to keep your selection of plants to dwarf and compact series. Also, small tree-formed plants like miniature rose trees tend to perform better because their foliage is held some distance from the ground. Many herbs are great for small gardens and they promote enthusiasm in healthier eating. Strawberry plants can be a great hit with children. A dwarf blueberry plant can be a lot of fun, but be sure to pick a variety that performs well in your part of the country. Being able to personally gather their crop, wash it and eat it leaves a very strong impression with a child.
If you desire to have a large garden or a large number of plants around your yard, create a separate garden or a separate section of the garden specific for the child (children) to work in. Having their own garden to take care of will build skills and self esteem while working side-by-side in the garden will bring the family closer together.
Have you ever thought about getting your children or grandchildren interested in gardening? If you have, now is the perfect time to get started! This edition of the Scoop discusses introducing children to gardening and covers some of the advantages in doing so.
Gardening with Children
If you gardened with a parent or grandparent as a child, chances are you have fond memories that have followed you into adulthood. While gardening, you can create a lifetime of memories with your little ones while teaching them lessons in responsibility and patience. In this edition of The Scoop, we will explore the endless benefits and possibilities for gardening with children.
To get started, you can either work in an established bed or create a brand new one. If you are building a new bed, remember to keep it small so your children don't get overwhelmed. Make sure it is in a sunny spot with adequate drainage. You can get your children involved from the beginning by encouraging them to choose the spot and decorate a fun border to mark off their garden.
If you live in an apartment or condo, container gardening is the way to go. Get your children involved by allowing them to pick out and decorate the containers. Even the smallest spaces can host an assortment of kid-friendly plants.
If you have young children, never leave them unattended in the garden. Make a rule for them to never eat anything in the garden without permission. Finally, make sure to purchase some kid-sized shovels, rakes, gloves and don't forget the sunblock!
A vegetable garden, flower garden or a combination of both will captivate your child's interest—the possibilities are endless! Show your children that they can grow food to eat and flowers to enjoy. They will be fascinated by the colors and may even eat a homegrown vegetable they would normally avoid.
One option for a fun, colorful look is a rainbow garden. With the help of your child, select plants that are all the colors of the rainbow and plant them together in a bed—just be sure that the plants chosen have similar sun needs. You can also create a rainbow garden with colorful or hand-painted containers.
Try creating a "pizza garden" by planting in a circle divided into wedges. You can even plant vegetables commonly used in pizza!
Children are naturally curious and inquisitive and most love to get dirty and dig in the dirt. For most children, planting is the most fun part of the experience. Of course, plants need attention after planting in the form of watering and fertilizing. Keep your child interested in the garden long after planting by making tasks such as watering and weeding fun.
Once the garden has been planted, you may want to encourage your child to keep a gardener's diary, recording the progress of the plants and any insects or weeds they encounter. A garden calendar with a daily "task of the day" is also a great way to keep your children interested in the garden and teach them a lesson in responsibility.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when gardening with children is to be patient and not to expect perfection. Take the time to explain the importance of watering, weeding and fertilizing to your child. If your child asks a question you cannot answer, take the opportunity to do some research and learn the answer together.
When the time comes to select the plants for your child's garden, allow them to choose the plants. This creates the opportunity to explain sun needs, the difference between annuals and perennials, and the difference between potted plants, bulbs, seeds and more. Encourage your child to ask questions and, as always, research any difficult questions together.
One of the best times of the year to garden with children is the fall. Planting bulbs in the fall is nearly foolproof and autumn weather is perfect for being outdoors—what more could you ask for? Bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and crocus are all planted in the fall for blooms in the spring. Planting spring flowering bulbs with your children will teach them patience as they eagerly wait all winter for the plants to grow. Not only is fall planting easy, watching the plants emerge in the spring is a fascinating and rewarding experience.
Regardless of the type of garden you choose to grow with the children in your life, whether you grow flowers, vegetables or both, you will surely find the experience to be rewarding. What better way is there to spend time with your family than by watching Mother Nature perform firsthand? Remember, the family who gardens together grows together!

Family Gardening