Child’s Garden Handouts – and Where to Start

I’m floored by the excitement and number of responses to the child’s garden giveaway! What lucky kids you all have. I wish you all the most amazing summers, remembering how magical gardens were when you were children and rediscovering that joy of discovery with your little ones!

These materials are free to use as you see fit – please just give me credit for the amount of time that went into this.

Here is the seed list, planting and growing tips and seed saving information.

Here is the seed starting schedule and trellis directions.

Here is the Child’s Garden planting map. Pickle recipes will be available on my site in a new recipe map which I will create this spring.

Now that you have the materials you need to plan where do you start? You need a 4′ x 4′ bed with full sun exposure. That means at least 8 hours a day. The bed doesn’t need to be a raised bed like mine are, it just needs to be a dirt area amended with compost which you can buy or post on that you are seeking.

I want to show you an example of how simple your bed can be. I’m linking into Joe the Gardener who grew a $25 victory garden last summer. I don’t want you to think you can feed your family all summer for $25 because Joe had a huge network of folks who sent him seeds but I love how simple his plan for the garden is in terms of setting up the beds. He found lumber on freecycle, compost through the parks department (or it might have been a city program) and used bricks to build his path so that he wasn’t walking on garden soil. You can find free bricks on freecycle as well. Here is the link to his garden bed episode.

I don’t think you need to buy any fancy tools. A small hand shovel and a pair of gloves are the only tools I really use in my garden. I use an organic fish fertilizer monthly which I apply with a watering can and I compost.

If you are unsure of your soil you can contact your local master gardener program and inquire about local soil tests. Many areas provide them for free. If you are concerned about heavy metals you can mail a soil sample off the the University of Massachusetts and they have soil tests for $9 that include heavy metals.

In the areas where you will be growing carrots you want to make sure you dig the soil deeply and remove any rocks or branches. Carrots send down a central tap root and when it hits resistance it stops and begins to add girth. So in order to get nice long carrots you need nice soft soil for them. Everywhere else you can work down about 6 inches with a standard shovel, breaking up your soil and mixing in the compost. Once the soil is fluffed up you want to be careful not to walk on it. You may want to use some bricks to separate the garden sections and give your little helpers something to walk on when going into the garden area.

When you are planting you want to be sure and put the tallest things at the north end of the garden so they don’t shade shorter plants. The exception to this is lettuce which will want to bolt in the summer sun. I’ve solved that problem by having you plant the lettuce early in the spring and then trellising your cucumbers up in front of it to shade it. You can also interplant lettuce with the corn so that it’s shaded in that way.

Joe Gardener has a great veggie gardening 101 tutorial on his site that is simple but covers a lot.

That’s it! Please feel free to comment on how your gardens are going or if I’ve omitted anything or not explained something clearly. Happy gardening!

14 Responses to Child’s Garden Handouts – and Where to Start

  1. Your internal links to the hand-out pages are dead…

  2. Thanks Mike – that’s what I get for posting after midnight. You’ve got some nice information on your site!

    To anyone else please let me know if these word docs are too recent a version for you to open and I can save them as older versions as well.

  3. Harmony Harbor

    The King County Conservation District offers free soil samples. Contact them at 425-277-5581.

  4. Thanks HH – I knew you could do it somewhere.

  5. Pingback: Child’s Garden Giveaway Winner

  6. I’m very excited about doing this, so thanks for creating the documents and sharing them! I can’t open the *.docx files on my machine (my MSWord is too old), so I uploaded them to Google Documents which did the converting for me.

  7. I’m so excited to do this! I am planning on sharing the seeds with some friends and we’re wondering how many 4×4 gardens you think we might be able to get out of each of the packets.

    I usually just dump the whole packet into the ground and thin things as they come up, so I have never gotten a good feeling of what a packet can produce.

    • Hi Jenny,

      It should say in the catalog how many seeds are in each package. Some seeds like lettuce and carrots are so tiny you get a bazillion in a packet and others are quite large like peas or beans. Then others like tomatoes cost an arm and a leg and you only get about 25 in each packet despite the high cost of the packet. I’ll be covering seed saving this summer so you don’t need to buy seeds again. Hope that helps.

  8. Thanks, it does. Usually I just kind of dump the package in and stir things around, so I’ve never really paid attention to the number of seeds in a package. :)

    There should be at least three kids gardens out there thanks to your great plan! My friend is doing one for each of her kids.

  9. Jenny – how fun! I used to do that too but now that I am growing so much stuff those seeds cost a lot of money!

  10. Hi there! I am actually a friend of Jenny’s (above) and am starting a veggie garden this year. I don’t know the first thing, but I am learning. I am doing ours in a neighborhood pea patch. They are rototilling this weekend and then I can start working the dirt and planting. There are some weeds right now, but not a ton. Anyway, my big question is what tools are essential? And what kind? I want to make my life easier by having the right tools, but don’t want to overdo it either. I won’t be able to leave tools there either, so I need to be able to transport. Note: On big days where I am working the soil & planting I can drive there, but on other days we will probably take the kids in the stroller. We are getting a 20×10 patch, but probably will not use the whole thing for veggies, as I am trying to start on the easy side.

  11. Hi Betsy! If the soil is really hardpan right now (and after each winter if you aren’t growing cover crops that help keep the soil from hardening over winter) you may need a hoe or shovel to break the soil up and mix in any compost. Once that is done in the spring though you probably will just need a trowel (little hand shovel). It’s hard to say without seeing how hard the soil is. I grew rutabagas & turnips in hardpan clay this winter as an experiment. The turnips grew above the soil line and we ate the greens all winter as well as the turnips that got large enough. None of the rutabagas got large enough to eat the roots but when I pulled them out that soil was beautiful. The hanful of seeds it took was worth it just to break the soil up for me and then I put them in the compost pile to return nutrients to the soil when it’s ready.

    I know lots of folks who swear by garden forks in the spring and they might work great but I’ve never tried that since I have raised beds and I try to keep them cover cropped all winter to help the soil. Hope this helps.

  12. I found this garden plan a month ago, decided to add another 4×4 bed when installing a 4×6 for myself, which my 5yo was super excited about — but now I can’t get the planting map to load. The other handouts load just fine, but not the map. I know this post is a couple years old, but hey, gardens don’t need to be modern. They do need to be timely, though, so any chance I could get the planting map soonest?

    • Annette Cottrell

      Hi Arwyn, Does it work now? I’m not sure why it wasn’t working but I uploaded the file again and it opens fine for me. I hope you guys have fun with it!!

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