two children reading a book on seeds

Gardening for Kids: Starting Seeds

Gardening is a wonderful activity for kids: kids cultivate STEM skills, get outdoors into the fresh air, exercise, and enjoy the excitement of seeing something they planted grow! We share tips and tools to get started, free downloads, garden ideas for kids, and some great books to spark gardening interest for kids.

Growing up, our mother was The GreenThumb. People would walk by our house to look at her beautifully landscaped garden. For a long time, both of us girls appeared to have not inherited this talent. Everything green shriveled under our care.

But much to our mothers’ delight, it seems as though these Green Genes have started to germinate. We have both managed to grow and keep plants alive! We have embraced the joy of gardening.

So, we can honestly say if we can make a success, anyone can! Gardening teaches patience, responsibility, slowing down, and also about boundaries. After all, you can guide nature to a certain point, but you can’t just force it to do whatever you want whenever you want.


The Secret Garden
well loved secret garden book

A classic that inspires

I have read this book countless times since a friend gave it to me when I was 8.

A timeless story about courage, determination, friendship, and overcoming loss, intertwined with a garden coming alive. It instills the desire to experience it yourself.

My tattered paper copy has well-thumbed pages. Without illustrations, my imagination created my vision of Mary, Dickon, Colin, and the Garden.

I still see what they look like in my mind to this day.

This one here contains three classic children’s novels by Frances Hodgson Burnett and the original, unaltered version of The Secret Garden (hard to find it unaltered), and the quality of the book is beautiful, made to last.

wood burned sign to the misselthwaite manor
Leading to Our Own Secret Garden

hand holding pot with seeds sprouting

Seed Starting Supplies

We asked our mom for tips.

  • Egg carton or seed starter tray (there are self-watering ones, too, if you want). Just make sure there are drainage holes (or make your own for each egg carton holder)
  • Seed starting medium (not just regular soil)
  • Select a warm spot that gets the most sun but is away from drafts (our mom uses a heating pad under the trays, it keeps the little plants warm, and boy, do they grow – like this)
  • Use plant tags if you are planting multiple types of plants (100 inexpensive plastic, or there are for the same price 30 bamboo with a marker) or a marker to label the trays.
  • Watering can or spray bottle TIP: allow the water to stand in a bucket for a few days to allow the chlorine to evaporate, then use it in the watering can.

Easy Beginner Seeds

Kids, we know, don’t have the most patience sometimes. Perhaps choose seeds that germinate a little faster.

  • Marigolds
  • Poppies
  • Sunflowers (beware, they will drop seed and spread)
  • Radishes aren’t fussy
  • Lettuce grows fast and is easy
easy beginner seeds for gardening for kids

Buy good quality – cheap seeds will often fail to germinate. Go to a good gardening center or order from a reliable company.

Our family orders from Stokes and Veseys. We personally prefer non-GMO or altered seeds, leaning towards ‘heritage’ and unaltered seeds.

An interesting website for heritage seeds (Canada only: Heritage Harvest Seed)

When to Start Planting

If you plan to grow indoors, this is entirely different – see this article for indoor tips or this hydroponics.

For outdoor planning, this depends on where you live, as each climate varies. You can plant year-round in some warm places, but it’s too cold in many places.

Some plants can tolerate or even like the cold (like lettuce or kale), and some don’t like it (like tomatoes).

Check your climate zone. Look for the first frost-free date for spring and the last frost-free date for fall. Some plants, such as peppers & herbs, might need longer. The days in between are the growing season. You can easily Google growing seasons based on location or check the maps below if you live in North America.

Good resources for climate zones: US Department of Agriculture Map or Natural Resources Canada Map

You will see seed packets and plants are assigned a “Hardiness Zone Rating,” making it easy to know what you can grow where you live. Home Depot has a little blurb about this.

Start your seeds indoors at least five weeks before the listed ‘frost-free spring date.’ This means the seedlings will have grown big enough to plant when it’s warm enough outside.

By starting your seeds early, Juvenile plants will have a higher chance of survival. And you can enjoy your vegetables or flowers much sooner!

See “Acclimating” in the How To Steps for when to plant outside.

How to Plant Seeds

  • Read the back of the seed package first. The package tells you how deep to plant, and so forth.
  • If using egg cartons, poke a little hole in the bottom of each holder to allow for drainage.
  • Fill the individual pots with seed starter medium (other soil will work, but not as well as seed potting mix).
  • Check the seed packet for details, but most seeds like to be kept moist but not soaked. If you are unsure about watering:
    • Spray with water daily using a spray bottle
    • Stick your finger in the little pot. It should be a little dry before watering again
    • Or use a self-watering tray – the plants will automatically soak up the water they need
seed tray

Acclimating Plants to Cold Weather

To toughen your plants up before the first frost-free day in your Hardiness Zone, take your little plants outside during the day but inside overnight if the temperature drops will drop to close to freezing.

To plant them outside, wait until the first frost-free day – the weather should be above 1°C overnight.

TIP: before planting, dig some soil up and squeeze it. The soil should be soft and moist – if it’s too hard in the ground, it’s still too cold to plant.

Once planted, our mom watches the weather every night during the early spring and is ready to cover her plants if the temperature looks like it may be under 3°C

Options include a garden frost protection blanket, a mini greenhouse, or a tunnel.

If you live in a temperamental climate, having something to cover your seedlings is a good idea! There is nothing worse than going to all that work to see your plants shrivel up after a cold snap!

Our mom uses a standing mini greenhouse (in the photo above) to acclimatize plants and help them get a lot of sunlight outdoors before planting them on the earth.

Ready to Plant Outside or Inside?

gardening for kids starting seeds

Whether you have an indoor garden, a balcony garden, or a large plot, you can grow beautiful flowers and vegetables.

See: Gardening for Kids: Indoor & Outdoor Gardens

Books On Gardening for Kids

Let’s Get Gardening: for children 5-8. Step-by-step guides teach kids how to grow vegetables. Includes material lists, tips, little fun projects like bee hotels, and the importance of recycling and caring for wildlife around us.

The Kew Gardens Children’s Cookbook: has step-by-step guides to grow vegetables in your garden, an allotment, patio containers, or window boxes. From planting seeds to watering, harvesting, composting, and then cooking them…with advice on cooking utensils and healthy diets. Produced in association with the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.

Kid’s First Gardening: Fantastic: for 5 To 12-year-old kids, 120 easy-to-follow step-by-step projects discuss safety, equipment, and commonly used terms, to how plants grow, general care, and sustainable gardening. The chapters discuss everyday techniques, edible treats, flower power, craft projects, wildlife gardening, and indoor gardening (including small-scale), and they have lots of photographs.

Square Foot Gardening, 3rd Edition: more for parents, making the best use of small spaces and includes a part on gardening with kids

more activities to germinate interest

Free Download

seed starting checklist

Free Download

Garden Journal

Gardening journals are a way to learn from your experiences and also keep track of your gardening memories.

Miniature Garden

One way to get your kids interested in gardening is by giving them a little space to create their own miniature garden. Kids love miniatures.

Outdoor Train Set

Model trains for the outdoors? Absolutely! Gardening, the outdoors, and trains are irresistible.

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