Maybe you're feeling the victory garden vibe this summer, but are also a little put off by the work. We feel that. We've had a vegetable garden for about ten years now, and used container gardens in our apartment in Toronto for a few years before that. We've definitely explored a lot of different things to grow, and ways to grow. Our garden right now, is one the most low maintenance vegetable gardens we've done. And our kids are completely down to hang-out and mess around in it. We're big advocates for free-range sensory play. Partly because it's fun. Partly because it's how we both grew up. And partly (mostly?) because it's WAY easier if your kids know how to just...hang.
You can make a garden super easy, and be pretty low-key about it. IMHO, the best gardeners are lazy gardeners. And all being a lazy gardener means is a no-messing around garden that's healthy and productive. Hanging out in an outdoor space, playing around with plants, and having your kids dig in the dirt should be fun! Gardening is an amazing sensory activity for little kids, and they can be involved even when they are really small. If you're at home with your kids right now, the garden should feel like an entertaining activity that you're doing together. Not something you get stuck with after they get bored. You don't want to have a ton of extra work to do, and if everything is super serious and they can't touch anything, what's the point?
So, here's our general advice for getting going, and later this week, we've got our list of the good stuff to grow!
Get seedlings for planting, but get seeds to play with.
It's way harder to get everything going from indoor seeds, growing into seedlings, hardening (i.e. toughening them up for the real world) them off, and then settling them in an outdoor space. Buy hardy looking seedlings to plant straight outside, but also a few packs of seeds for experimenting indoors and fun. Seeds are super cheap, so go nuts.
Don't grow a million things.
Honestly, even 4 or 5 different vegetables will still be a lot of vegetables, all of which will end up ripening around the same time. It feels crappy when stuff is ripening and you can't get to it fast enough. And by grow, I mean, plant and grow the actual vegetable, if your kid wants to watch a million little seeds shoot up, do whatever you need to. It's all about keeping them interested.
Grow the stuff you and your kids will eat. Ideally raw.
We'll give you our recos on the best kid-friendly plants later this week, but...if you look at the list (or any list) and no ones going to eat anything on there, ignore us and find the things at least one member of your household will eat. And even better, things that they'll eat raw, or a lot of. Like, I get that radishes grow fast, but how many radishes can anyone eat? If you like radishes, great, there's going to be a shit ton going around in about 3 weeks. Dig in.
Up-cycled containers make the best planters.
We have a veggie patch these days, but it came with the house when we bought it. Prior to this one, we've had raised beds, and plenty of containers. And we've used a ton of different stuff for containers, big sinks, old coolers with holes drilled in the bottom, tires, baskets and wooden crates. It's for sure the least work on weeding and set up. But it's definitely heavier on the watering.
Equipment: Trowel, watering can, repurposed containers, dirt + seedlings/seeds.
You really don't need that much stuff. The trowel will work for whatever digging you need to do, and your kids will play with the watering can when you're not actually watering stuff. You could also grab a cheap kids gardening kit for like $10 if you feel the need. If you play it right, you can definitely kill an hour or two when you start to grow the seeds. My kids will "water" stuff and put dirt in containers for hours. I can't guarantee your kids won't eat a few handfuls of dirt in the process, but mine have survived and seem (mostly?) fine.
That's it! Have fun, and let us know how it goes!