It’s January and in much of the county it is cold. Too cold to grow most fruits, vegetables and herbs. The next 2-3 months can be really dull and difficult for many edible gardeners. Having young children at home can make wintertime cabin fever more difficult. What can one do to inspire their inner edible gardener while keeping the kids entertained? Easy, plan next season’s edible garden! Just be sure to include the kids.
Recently I posted about fighting back against winter’s dreary grip. It contains a recommendation to browse seed catalogs as one way to brighten up otherwise dull, grey days. Why not invite the kids along to thumb through the seed catalogs with you? After all, seed catalogs are usually filled with wonderfully colorful images of amszing produce!
Winter months are some really tough times for parents, especially those with younger children. The holidays are over and parents have exhausted all the usual options. It just so happens these are the months when seed catalogs arrive in the mail. I call them colorful messengers of joy! Plus, seed catalogs remind us all that spring will in fact come again one day. So, break out the seed catalogs and start dreaming about the growing season to come!
Over the past couple of years we have made seed selecting and edible garden planning family activities. It is so much fun and very interesting to watch the children’s’ eyes light up as they see images of beautiful and often unique fruits, vegetables and herbs. Selecting seeds and garden planning do not have to be quick activities either. It usually takes us a few sit downs before we get our seed orders and edible garden plans just right.
Here is how to do it:
1) Have a bunch of small pieces of paper and some tape handy to allow each person to bookmark their seed pages of interest and write down their thoughts on particular seeds.
2) Place all your seed catalogs around a table and let each person take one. Some catalogs are more visual than others. Be sure the kids get the most visual ones. If they are old enough to read then encourage them to learn about the seeds. Take time to read to them if the reading is too advanced. You will likely learn something as well!
3) Begin to develop a garden plan once most of the seeds have been selected. This step is best done at a different seating. It is nice to sleep on seed buying decisions before investing time to plan a garden or order seeds. Plus, the kids will not want to do marathon garden planning sessions!
4) Sketch out edible garden beds on graph paper or use the garden planning worksheets in the back of my edible garden planning guide book. Does your seed selection make sense now that it is on paper? Remember, less is often more when it comes to edible gardening. Also be sure the edible plant selections will grow well in your location (consider variables like climate, sun exposure, watering needs and companion planting).
Let kids get creative (example in the picture below) by allowing them to use colored pencils or crayons to draw the edible plants they want to grow. I bet they surprise you with how well they can draw carrots, strawberries and other tasty produce. Be sure to help them understand how many of each plant can grow in a specified area. If you do not have this information then check the plant descriptions in seed catalogs.
Book Front Cover
Garden Planning Worksheet from my book
Kiddie Garden Planning Sketch
5) Once you are satisfied with your seed selection and checked that plants will do well in your garden it is time to order or buy seeds from your local garden center. I buy some seeds from local garden centers, swap seeds with gardening friends and order from a few catalog retailers. Click here for a list of mail order seed suppliers.
When the seeds arrive you can keep the kids engaged by reviewing each seed packet with them. Remember to keep it simple and do not try to become expert on too many plant types at once. You and your children will benefit more from growing a few plants and knowing a lot about each one.
I find the process of seed selection and garden planning is helpful for getting through the winter. Before long it will be time to start seeds under grow lights or plant the first seeds of the season in your garden soils!