Tips for Gardening with Kids

After the long, cold winter we’ve all been having, most people are pretty eager for spring to arrive.

Growing food with your children not only teaches them where it comes from, but offers valuable real-world experience, quality family time, and good ol’ fashioned hard work in the dirt (sure, it can be play, but anyone who’s weeded a garden knows the truth!). Thankfully, kids want to be put to work. They want to feel useful and have a purpose in the family. No bribing or begging by mom and dad is necessary – the results of their efforts will be reward enough. Start them early enough, and you’ll drag your kids, kicking and screaming from the garden, rather than towards it.

Mel Bartholomew shares his tips for gardening with children in his new book Square Foot Gardening With Kids.


Square Foot Gardening With Kids 1

Square Foot Gardening With Kids

Of all the reasons to enjoy gardening with your kids, perhaps none is more important than simply spending time together.

I’ve introduced quite a few children to the SFG method over the years, so here are a few tips and suggestions for success that I have picked up along the way.

Start Modestly

There’s no need to fill your whole yard with SFG boxes and that would be a good thing even if you could. Kids should grow only what you’re sure they can and will eat, or can easily give away. Remember, SFG isn’t work, and you don’t’ want to make it seem like that. Best to start with just one 3 x 3 box per child for the first season. Schools allot just one square per student. Next season, you can add a box if the kids want it and ask for it.

Involve the Child

Every step along the way, from reading the book, to building the SFG box, planting, growing, nurturing, to the final harvest, represents a chance for kids to be involved, have fun and learn. If you’re patient, kids of any age can help build boxes, mix Mel’s Mix and participate in every aspect of Square Foot Gardening. Even if they can’t do everything themselves, don’t do it for them. Give them whatever help they need to create a Square Foot Garden they can rightfully call their own.


Square Foot Gardening With Kids 2

Square Foot Gardening With Kids

A box full of soil and the open road ahead? What could be more fun than that for kids of any age?

Reinforce the Benefits

When your child comes running into the house with a squash she grew in her Square Foot Garden, don’t just pat her on the head and say, “That’s nice dear.” Get excited too. Find a good recipe for squash soup or squash au gratin and cook it that very night so that your little Square Foot Gardener understands how valuable her harvest is.


Kids love to share their successes, and you can help them do that with their SFG. Get grandma and grandpa on the phone (or, better yet, on a video chat!) to let them know what’s growing. It’s a great way for grandparents and grandkids to connect. Invite your child’s friends over for a garden party and help your child decorate her SFG. Sharing is part of the great fun and adventure of Square Foot Gardening – even for adults!


Square Foot Gardening With Kids 3

Square Foot Gardening With Kids

Gardening with toddlers is all a matter of adapting a little bit; look at seed catalogs and take the toddlers along on trips to the nursery.