Category Archives: Gardening with kids

Child’s Garden Giveaway Winner

I am completely amazed at the response that this giveaway generated and excited to think of all of you gardening with your little ones this summer! But without further ado…the winner is # 23 as verified by


Please email me annettecottrell (at) to get your prize and begin your child’s garden.

And for everyone who didn’t win please note the handouts are posted for free along with some directions on where to start when putting in a new garden. All you would need to do is buy the seeds.

When you are shopping for seeds you may want to consider buying from places near you that trial them for your particular environment or are committed to saving heirloom, open pollinated seeds. By growing and eating these foods you are helping to preserve them and their genetic diversity, as well as boosting your nutritional intake. Heirloom varieties contain significantly more nutrients than the handful of varieties that make up the bulk of veggies at the store which are bred for looks and shelf life. Flavor = nutrition. Life is too short to eat bland veggies, and the more of them you eat the shorter it will be.

“You can vote with your fork…and you can do it three times a day.” – Michael Pollan.

Some of my favorite seed sources:

Uprising Organics
Territorial Seeds
Peaceful Valley
Renee’s Garden
Johnny’s Seeds
Fedco Seeds
Seed Savers
Seeds of Change

What are some of your favorite seed sources?

Gardening with Kids

It’s important that children connect with their food and a garden is the perfect way to foster that.

To a gardener the garden is a place of peace and tranquility. To a child the garden is a place of wonder and discovery. Sometimes those two places crash when they meet. Gardening is a process to a child (digging in dirt, playing with water, watching for bugs) while the adult gardener may be focused on accomplishing tasks (getting the seeds in, weeding, harvesting food.)

By creating a destination garden you set yourself and your child up for success in the garden. There are a number of things you can design into your garden to keep your child busy while you accomplish tasks alone, and engaged while you work on things together.

Set aside an area of the garden that belongs to your child. Let them pick out foods they want to grow but help them choose varieties that will do well in your area. If you live in the rainy northwest as I do that may mean growing cherry tomatoes or tiny cucumbers so that the fruit ripens faster with less sunlight.

By letting your child select the vegetables, you are increasing your odds dramatically that they will eat them, especially if they are allowed to harvest them at will. Most kids enjoy carrots, peas, beans, cherry tomatoes and cucumbers. Some kids enjoy basil and lettuce. All kids enjoy growing pumpkins for Jack-o-Lanterns.

If you have room you may want to consider adding strawberry and blueberry bushes, columnar fruit trees, mint and edible flowers like sunflowers, johnny jump-ups, nasturtiums and chamomile. Fresh mint leaves and chamomile flowers or leaves can be used to make teas, mint can be steeped in warming milk to flavor it, sunflower seeds can be roasted for snacking and johnny jump-ups and nasturtiums can grace summer salads.

When it comes time to sow seeds you can make furrows in the dirt then poke your finger or a stick where the seeds should go. Most children will then be able to plant the seeds unassisted. Lettuce and carrot seeds are tiny so let them sprinkle along your furrow then plan to later go back and thin them. It’s important that your child get involved in the planting so they see the process from start to finish. You can let them water with a watering can. A rain gauge will help them to see how much water is enough and give them something to check on after storms.

Print off pictures of garden bugs and make a little booklet that your child can use to identify bugs in the garden. Lady beetles, earthworms, green caterpillars, sow bugs and aphids are all common garden bugs and giving your child the job of identifying good and bad bugs is a empowering experience.

Build a spider orb by gluing popsicle sticks together in a hexagonal shape then tying it in a tree. Your child can check daily to see if a spider has moved in yet. Once a spider moves in your child can check daily progress. It’s very exciting to catch a spider in the act of stunning and wrapping a fly!

Adding a simple water feature will provide your child hours of enjoyment as well as support beneficial insects. This can be as simple as caulking the drainage hole in flower pot and filling it with water daily. Do be sure and change the water frequently though so it doesn’t become a nesting place for mosquitoes.

Let you child harvest with you. Encourage them to use two handed picking so as not to disturb the plant and let them help you prepare the food they grew to feed the family. Jobs like these are important milestones for children and go a long way towards fostering independence and emotional security.

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!

Child’s Garden Giveaway

At long last I’ve finally gotten up my strength to stay up late one night and design the child’s garden. I’m really excited about this giveaway, just thinking of a child’s excitement and how fun this will be!

Once again using my favorite garden planning tool,, I’ve designed this garden to be 4 feet by 4 feet and it doesn’t need to be a fancy raised bed, it can literally be a 4 x 4 section of dirt amended with compost. I’ve chosen a handful of things that I think any child would appreciate with some interest in spring, summer and fall. The varieties are all fairly simple to grow.

You will kick off your spring garden with two varieties of dwarf peas which will ripen in succession, as well as two varieties of carrots and some leaf lettuces that will go all summer. You will have one cool season bush bean (provider) that you’ll start early and then succession plant with a traditional summer bush bean to finish out the season. The Provider beans are great to freeze or pickle.

As the soil warms up you’ll plant Jack o-Lantern pumpkins, sweet heirloom corn and mini cucumbers for eating or pickling. I’ll give you easy directions for tying bamboo stakes together to make a trellis for the cucumbers to grow up and shade the lettuce from the summer’s strong sun. Growing vertically like this allows you to get an extra crop into an already small space as well.

I’ve left spots for basil and cherry tomatoes which would do best as purchased starts from your local garden center.

Although this 4′ X 4′ bed is packed full of food I’m throwing in nasturtium, viola, chamomile, sunflower, marigold and borage seeds to be placed in another spot in your yard that gets full sun or interplant with veggies, or these can be grown just outside the veggie bed boundaries. The nasturtiums and violas are fun to grow and beautiful in salads, the daisy-like chamomile flowers are cheery to the eye and make relaxing “sleepy” tea, and I’ve selected the sunflowers for the edible seeds which can be roasted and salted. The borage will attract garden bees and thereby increase your tomato, cucumber and pumpkin yields and the marigolds will help keep aphids and nematodes away.

I’m hoping a child will have so much fun with this 2010 garden that they might begin a life-long journey digging in the soil and eating real food. And even if you are a grown up with a kid’s heart this would be a great beginner’s garden or a nice postage stamp garden for someone with very limited sun exposure or space. I would prefer to limit the actual giveaway to a child since it includes a pair of child’s gardening gloves but you could always buy these same seeds and start a postage stamp garden of your own.

Here are the list of seeds:

  • Empress Bushy Snap Bean, Uprising Organics (vigorous plants hang heavy with long 6-7″ pods, crisp and delicous, slow to turn starchy or tough. Great for canning and freezing.)
  • Provider Bush Snap Bean, Uprising Organics (early bean variety, excels in cooler soil, heavy yields with rich green bean taste)
  • Sugar Ann Snap Pea, Uprising Organics (early snap pea, sweet eating, medium sized pods on 24″ vines need no staking)
  • Maestro Shelling Pea, Uprising Organics (sweet, productive, resistant to enation and powdery mildew, long pods on 24″ vines need no staking)
  • Purple Dragon Carrots, Uprising Organics (sweet, spicy full flavor, bright purple skin)
  • Nantes Carrots, Uprising Organics (classically sweet carrot with a rich full flavor, great as baby carrots or for fall storage, juicing and pickling)
  • Merlot Red Loose leaf Lettuce, Uprising Organics (deep burgundy loose head, slow to bolt)
  • Parris Island Cos Romaine Lettuce, Uprising Organics (excellent texture and crunch, vigorous upright habit)
  • Continuity Butterhead Lettuce, Territorial Seed Company (OP, bronze red outer leaves encase a green head, bolts in hot weather)
  • French Sorrel, Territorial Seed Company (OP, member of the buckwheat family, perennial with spinach like, lemon tasting leaves)
  • Alibi Cucumbers, Territorial Seed Company (dependable producer, high yield and disease resistant, excellent for fresh eating or pickling)
  • Golden Bantam Sweet Corn, Territorial Seed Company (OP, an heirloom favorite, early sweet corn that freezes well on the cob)
  • Magic Lantern Pumpkin, Territorial Seed Company (vigorous, compact, resistant to powdery mildew)
  • Empress of India Nasturtiums, Territorial Seed Company (deep regal red flowers will billow and cascade)
  • Johnny Jump Up Violas, Territorial Seed Company (tri-colored purple, lavender and yellow blossoms will re bloom in the fall and reseed)
  • Tarahumara Heirloom Sunflower, Uprising Organics (7-8′ tall stunning flower head with fuzzy lime green center. Delicious white seeds)
  • Chamomile – German (flowers are used fresh or dried to make sleepy time tea, reseeds with abandon)
  • Borage, Peaceful Valley (beautiful edible purple flowers that bees love. This will help attract pollinators to your garden.)
  • Marigolds – French Brocade, Uprising Organics (cheery bright yellow button flowers that will help keep aphids and nematodes at bay.)
  • In addition to the seeds here’s what you’ll get:

    Sowing schedule
    Printed garden map
    Planting directions and growing tips
    Recipe suggestions
    Pickling recipes for the carrots, beans and cucumbers
    Seed saving directions for flowers, beans, peas, sorrel, tomatoes and corn

    If the winner is local to me I’ll also provide you with a cherry tomato and basil start but unfortunately I can’t mail those so I can only do that if you are local.

    In addition to giving these things away I’m hoping by this weekend to get this information (map, schedule, planting directions, growing tips, recipe suggestions, pickling recipes, seed saving directions) on my site as handouts so if you don’t win you can still plant this lovely garden. Because you will only need a few of each seed variety if you go in with some friends and order 1 packet of each you will save lots of money that you can put towards a nice bottle of California olive oil to dress your yummy salads with.

    Please do feel free to let schools, home school units or friends know about the handouts and the giveaway. I would love for as many children of all ages to employ and enjoy these gardening plans as possible!

    To enter the giveaway simply leave a comment below by midnight, Sunday March 7. On Monday, March 8 I will use to pick a winner. Again, even if you don’t win you I’d be flattered if you used the garden plan, seed list and other materials to grow your own garden.

    Good luck!