Planting a Child-Friendly Garden
Gardeners love to share their interest in gardening, and sharing with their children can be particularly rewarding. Even 2- and 3-year-olds can help plant their own little patch, and watch as life unfolds around them. Here are some suggestions for making gardening enjoyable -- and safe -- for young children.
Stake a Claim
Section off a corner of the garden or yard where a child can do as he or she pleases. It doesn't have to be designed or even particularly attractive, just a place where to explore without risk of damaging your prized plants.
Let the Children Choose What They Want to Plant
Most often, these will be plants they recognize, such as pumpkins and potatoes. Plants with large seeds, such as beans, sunflowers, and nasturtiums, are easiest for small hands to sow. Though radish seeds are small, children delight in the almost instant growth and harvest. Or plant with a theme, perhaps a "pizza" garden containing tomatoes and peppers as well as herbs such as basil and oregano.
See our article on planting a pizza garden
Children Love Hiding Places
Consider constructing a tepee from tall poles and twine, to be covered with climbing beans and flowers (Be sure to leave an opening for a door). Or create a special room: a circle of tall sunflowers with shorter sunflowers or other flowers between them.
Many Herbs Are Attractive and Smell Great
Chives, sage, mint, and basil are good choices for a child's garden. Edible flowers, such as nasturtiums, pansies, violets, and calendulas, are also good.
Be Careful with Certain Plants in Your Children's Garden
Since many other plants -- even something as familiar as rhubarb leaves -- are toxic, teach your child to consult with you before anything into his or her mouth. Only a few are so toxic they should not be used around children and pets. Two extremely toxic plants are castor bean (Ricinus communis) and precatory bean or rosary pea (Abrus). Many other plants are toxic in larger quantities and should be avoided in a child's garden. These include angel's trumpet (Brugmansia), delphinium, foxglove (Digitalis), euonymus, morning glory (Ipomoea), St. Johnswort (Hypericum), lantana, cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima), love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena), and valerian (V. officinalis).
Article and photo provided by the National Gardening Association