Kids vegetable garden: How to make and plant a garden for kids
The benefits of gardening for children
Making a kids vegetable garden is a wonderful way for children to learn, be active, and grow their own food in the process. There is plenty of evidence to show the many benefits of gardening for children’s (and adult’s) physical and mental health, physical development and well-being.
When children participate in gardening and grow their own food, they are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables (Bell & Dyment, 2008). They also tend to have a better knowledge of nutrition and eat more nutritious food (Koch et al. 2006, Morris & Zidenberg-Cherr, 2002).
Gardening helps children to develop self-confidence and initiative, as well as science, maths and literacy skills. This all helps them to be more successful in school and in the wider world (Miller, 2007). Children who participate in gardening tend to have improved attitudes towards education and also improved achievement in science (Klemmer, Waliczek, & Zajicek, 2005).
A meta-analysis on the benefits of gardening by Soga, et al. (2017) found that gardening helped with many different health benefits including reducing anxiety and depression and improvement in body mass index. Gardening has also been found to improve quality of life, satisfaction in life and people’s sense of community (Soga, et al., 2017; Schmutz et al, 2014).
How to make a kids vegetable garden – Where to start
How you start a children’s vegetable garden will depend, in part on the space you have and the time you have to devote to it. If you want to do very simple indoor growing to begin with, you can grow cress. They are very easy to grow and don’t take long to mature. You could also start by growing a few plants in pots on a deck, balcony or patio. Alternatively, if you have a little bit of garden space, you can make a small patch for gardening or a raised gardening bed. I would recommend using either pots or beds to help make it easier to keep weeds from growing and also to provide a bit of a barrier from pests like slugs and snails.
In addition to the space needed for growing, you will also potentially need the following:
- Gardening gloves and children’s gardening gloves
- Plant labels (you can use old ice lolly / popsicle sticks)
- Hand trowel
- Hand fork
- Watering can
- Soil / compost
- Seedling pots
What to grow
What you choose to grow will in part, depend on your growing space. That is, how much space you have, sunlight, etc. However, I will recommend some plants that can be fun to try to grow with children. It can be great to try new things and children will be more likely to try and eat the vegetables that they have grown. This is a great way to get them to try new food! Below are some ideas of what you can grow. You may also want to explore this list of the. Some of these plants require more space to grow than others so consider your space (and time of year) when deciding what you want to start growing):
- Green beans
- Broad beans
- Swiss chard / Rainbow chard
- Squash / pumpkins
- Bok choy / Pak choi
If you have a bit more space I would recommend growing berries as they are generally expensive to buy. They are easy enough to manage as long as you keep on top of cutting them back and picking them when needed.
- Gooseberries (Can be made into jam)
I hope this helps to get you started on your gardening journey. If you would like some further tips about gardening with children, you may want to see some of the other gardening posts on my blog. You may find my posts about collecting seeds from flowers, Outdoor Autumn and Winter Gardening Activities, Growing tomatoes with Children and Growing Sunflowers with children .
Bell, A. C. & Dyment, J. E. (2008). Grounds for health: The intersection of green school grounds and health-promoting schools. Environmental Education Research, 14(1): 77-90.
Klemmer, C. D., Waliczek, T. M., & Zajicek, J. M. (2005). Growing minds: The effect of a school gardening program on the science achievement of elementary students.HortTechnology 15(3): 448-452.
Koch, S., Waliczek, T. M., & Zajicek, J. M. (2006). The effect of a summer garden program on the nutritional knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours of children. Hort- Technology 16(4): 620-625.
Libman, K. (2007). Growing youth growing food: How vegetable gardening influences young people’s food consciousness and eating habits. Applied Environmental Education & Communication 6(1): 87-95.
Morris, J. L., Neustadter, A., & Zidenberg-Cherr, S. (2001). First-grade gardeners are more likely to taste vegetables. California Agriculture, 55(1), 43-46.
Miller, D. (2007) The Seeds of Learning: Young Children Develop Important Skills Through Their Gardening Activities at a Midwestern Early Education Program, Applied Environmental Education & Communication, 6:1, 49-66.
Soga, M., Gaston, K., J., Yamaura, Y. (2017). Gardening is beneficial for health: A meta-analysis. Preventative Medicine Reports, 5, 92-99.
Schmutz, et al. (2014). The benefits of gardening and food growing for health and wellbeing.