blue and black butterfly in a garden

Gardening For Kids: Indoor Garden & Outdoor Gardens

backyard garden with miniature schnauzer
Our Childhood Garden – And Faithful Pup On Guard

We have so many good memories of Mom’s garden during our childhood. Kids love dirt, so gardening is a natural way to get kids outside!

From the indoors to the outdoors, here are some tips on grow lights, hydroponics for kids, free downloads and checklists, and kid-friendly gardening tools and books to get started to cultivate the love of gardening in kids.

why try to explain miracles to your kids, when you can just have them plant a garden?

Robert Brault

There truly is something special about watching a garden come alive. Seeing your seeds and plants flourish and grow is a certain excitement and pride of accomplishment.

While the appeal of growing outdoors in undeniable, limited space or climate – WINTER, we’re talking about you – means a little adaptation is needed to enjoy gardening indoors.

Garden Style Options

Indoor Garden

It just takes a little preparation and selection


Easier than growing indoors, you can still grow a remarkable selection of plants.

Outdoor Garden in the Yard

You can choose to have small planter boxes, raised beds, or old-fashioned garden plot

Flower, Vegetable, Herb, or Combo

It depends on your preference, available space, and climate

Hydroponics for Kids Who Love Space

Does your kid like space? Do you not like dirt in the house? Astronauts ate their first lettuce grown in space on Monday, August 10, 2015. See the article on Astronaut Gardeners.


Garden life depends on light, nutrients, and water.

You can even grow tomatoes in an indoor garden on a windowsill in your apartment if they get enough light. Just read the specific tag on your plant – some like direct light, some prefer dappled, and others more indirect light.

Full Sun

This means the plant needs a minimum of six hours (but most vegetables do better with 10-16 hours) of direct sunlight in a day.  For indoors: place within 3 feet or less of a sunny, south-facing window.

Partial Sun & Shade

Require four to six hours of direct sunlight per day. Indoors: 3 to 5 feet away from a south-facing window or within 3 feet of an east- or west-facing window.

Full Shade

Need only indirect sunlight or less than three hours of direct sunlight per day (some can’t even tolerate any direct sun as it will burn their leaves). Indoors: 6 to 8 feet away from a south-facing window, or within a foot of a north-facing window.

Most plants are happiest when receiving 12 to 16 hours of light daily. If you do not have enough sunlight or want to keep your plants blooming during the short days of winter, you may need to provide additional lighting.

Grow Lights For AN Indoor Garden

Grow lights can’t compare to natural sunlight but may be needed for indoor growth or to extend the growing season.

If using grow lights only, leave them on no longer than 16 hours a day to simulate sunlight, or combine them with natural sunlight if possible.


  • What types of plants will you be growing?
    • Starting seeds requires less light and less height requirement than growing full vegetables
    • Many houseplants are fine with just sunlight by a window and don’t need grow lights
  • Size: are you just starting seeds, herbs, lettuce, or larger plants?
  • Height Clearance: How tall will the plants get? (lettuce vs tomatoes)
  • Is this to supplement sunlight or being used exclusively to provide light?
  • Will you grow year-round or start seeds in spring?
  • Visual appeal: is this going in your living room or in the basement corner?
    • We suggest, no matter how ugly, keep the plants where your kids will see them every day
  • Is this countertop or mobile on wheels?
  • Cost: going cheap or want to make an investment?
  • Power usage

They emit almost no heat and require little power to operate, with easy set-up options for beginners. They can be programmed to simulate the color temperature of sunlight and produce simultaneously all the bands of light spectrum needed for both vegetative growth and flowering. You can buy small, medium, or large options. There are so many options on the market.

More efficient but costlier LED lights are available see Grow Lights Canada, or There are bamboo table tops, metal, tiered, rolling, and hanging. It depends on how much you want to spend, as these are for serious growers.

Grow Light for Indoor Plants - Upgraded Version 80 LED Lamps with Full Spectrum & Red Blue Spectrum, 3/9/12H Timer, 10 Dimmable Level, Adjustable Gooseneck,3 Switch Modes


  • Inexpensive
  • Full spectrum light
  • 4-head light has a 360-degree flexible gooseneck
  • Timer setting
  • Nine dimmable modes
  • Metal clamp
KingLED Newest 1000w LED Grow Lights with Samsung LM301B LEDs and 10x Optical Condenser 3x3 ft Coverage Full Spectrum Grow Lights for Indoor Hydroponic Plants Veg Bloom Greenhouse Growing Lamps

HANGING STYLE: 1000watt KingLED:

  • Uses Samsung LED’s
  • 3’x3′ vegetable coverage and 2.5’x2.5′ flowering coverage
  • Full spectrum light for plants (red, white & blue)
  • Cost-effective (Average Power Draw: 185W)
  • Multiple high-speed mute fans and upgraded aluminum radiators enable the light bulb to work at 50°F to 60°F which is lower than other lamps
  • Three years of Professional Service and free return for 90 days
  • For smaller production – it won’t yield a full garden!
AeroGarden 45w LED Grow Light Panel, Black

TABLE TOP: AeroGarden

  • 45 watt
  • The company has been making AeroGardens for 15 years
  • Full spectrum light for plants (red, white & blue)
  • Adjustable legs to allow height adjustment
  • Rotates 360 degrees
  • Hanger included if hanging above mature plants requiring more height

The cheapest is fine for houseplants but does not provide enough intensity for vegetables unless combined with sufficient sunlight. They also require a distance of two feet or more from plants to prevent heat damage as they emit a lot of heat (which also means they will warm up the temperature in your home)

Fluorescent (Traditional Style)

They are ok for growing herbs and other plants that don’t require a lot of light. But they don’t work well for budding or flowering plants because they don’t provide enough light, but they can be used for germination and some vegetable growth (especially if combined with natural sunlight)

Compact Fluorescent Systems

These newer fluorescent lights work well for all indoor plants. They provide a lot of light and produce less heat than incandescent lights, so they can be placed closer to plants. They are efficient and less expensive than high-intensity discharge (HID) lights.

High-Intensity Discharge (HID) Bulbs

It can be expensive and is typically used by serious growers. They are the most efficient lights. Sometimes you need to combine different HID lights to obtain the right combination of red and blue light hues to produce vegetative growth (blue) or flowers (red-orange). These will require some research. For example, see

Indoor Garden & Balcony

Having a flourishing indoor garden depends on how much direct sun is available. Many friends successfully grew a surprising amount of vegetables in pots and raised container gardens on a balcony or a tomato plant in a window indoors.

Choose a pot or bed that allows for drainage (like holes). For example, try something like these self-watering ones with a large reservoir for windowsill herbs grown in soil.

Just be sure to check your local Hardiness Zone for what plants you can grow outside and when to put them outside if you live in colder climates (see this article for more details about this and starting from seed indoors).

Outdoor Garden – Yard or Raised Beds

city backyard garden
The Garden Growing Up

Container gardening is growing increasingly popular, especially for smaller spaces. Many local places offer styles or check your local used websites as many offer custom-built ones. Here are some examples:

Raised cedar planter style: Has drainage and a liner

Keter Urban Bloomer 12.7 Gallon

Raised bed, self-watering with drainage and drainage plug

Herb Garden Style: Separate compartments with liners and a shelf

If planting directly into your yard, using some edging will make your life a little easier. Old boards (make sure they are NOT pressure treated for vegetable gardens, as you don’t want that leeching into your food), old bricks or plastic edging will all work.

Watch the sun as it moves through the day and pick the spot with the most sunlight. Again, check your local Hardiness Zone to determine what you can grow, the best time to plant, and if you need some supplies for cold weather protection – see this article if interested.


Starting Seeds: The best option is an organic seed starter mix.

Indoor Garden: When they get big enough, transplant the seedlings into larger pots with a good quality organic potting mix. Note: Do not reuse soil or take some from outside, as this can introduce disease or pests.

Outdoor Garden: Transplant into your garden. If you already have good soil, it’s terrific. However, if not, mix in larger quantities of good soil from your local gardening store. If you have compost to add, your plants will love you.

Hydroponics for Indoor Gardens

Does your kid like space? Do you not like dirt in the house? Astronauts ate their first lettuce grown in space on Monday, Aug. 10, 2015, from the veggie plant growth system! See this Article: Growing Plants in Space: Astronaut Gardening at Home.

Pests & Fertilizer

So much depends on whether you grow indoors, outdoors, flowers, or vegetables. This may require a little research on your part when needed.

We use organic methods, such as releasing beneficial insects (mantis, ladybugs, lacewings), using diatomaceous earth, and so forth.

So much information is available online, or ask a good gardening center for suggestions.

Kids Gardening Tools

You may already have some tools around. But, as you know, kids are more interested and enthusiastic when they have their own tools. Just decide if you prefer metal & wood or plastic depending on age and potential for injury.

Little Gardener Tool Set with Garden Tools Bag for Kids Gardening - Kit Includes Watering Can, Children Gardening Gloves, Shovel, Rake, Fork and Garden Tote Bag-Children Gardening All in One Kit

Little Gardener Tool Set (Says for toddlers but more for 4+ per reviews)

  • Six pieces
  • Canvas tote, shovel, rake, fork, watering can, kid-sized gloves
  • Wooden handles
  • Metal heads
Play22 Kids Garden Tool Set Toy 4-Piece - Shovel, Rake, Hoe, Leaf Rake, Wooden Gardening Tools for Kids Best Outdoor Toys Gift for Boys and Girls

G & F JustForKids: or Play22 Kids Set

  • 4 Piece set: large rake, large spade, large hoe and leaf rake, really good reviews
  • Made of sturdy steel heads
  • Real wood handles

Gardening Set

  • This set is metal; some parents say the shovel could be too sharp, but older kids love the sets. Comes with a gardening book.
  • This is a plastic option set

How To Books for Kids

Let’s Get Gardening: For kids, step-by-step instructions teach kids how to grow vegetables. It comes with material lists, tips, little fun projects like bee hotels, and the importance of recycling and caring for wildlife around us.

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 for 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 have lots of photographs.

How to Books for Parents

We focused on small gardens and indoor gardening. There are SO MANY gardening books out there. We are confident you will find the ones you like!

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

The Vegetable Gardener’s Container Bible: From the blurb: “Harvest tomatoes on a patio, produce a pumpkin in a planter, and grow broccoli on a balcony.” Tips on growing in containers and small spaces.

EASY TO GROW PLANTS For Your Outdoor or Indoor Garden

  • Leafy greens (not head lettuces): moderate light, 60°F/15°C or warmer
  • Arugula: moderate light, 60°F/15°C or warmer
  • Carrots (they will be tiny but tasty): moderate light, 60°F/15°C or warmer
  • Kale: moderate light, 60°F/15°C or warmer
  • Microgreens: moderate light, 60°F/15°C or warmer
  • Mustard greens: moderate light, 60°F/15°C or warmer
  • Peas: moderate light, 60°F/15°C or warmer
  • Radishes: moderate light, 60°F/15°C or warmer
  • Spinach: moderate light, 60°F/15°C or warmer
  • Swiss chard: moderate light, 60°F/15°C or warmer
  • Beets, broccoli: greens only: moderate light, 60°F/15°C or warmer
  • Herbs: oregano, peppermint, rosemary, sage, mint, thyme (moderate light but prefer full sun, 70°F/20°C)
  • Tomatoes (full sun, prefer warmth 70°F/20°C)
  • Peppers (full sun, prefer warmth 70°F/20°C)
  • Citrus trees | Dwarf varieties (full sun, prefer warmth 70°F/20°C)

Resources and Downloads

Free Checklist Download

Basic tools, steps, timing, and more!

Free Garden Journal download

Keeping a garden journal is a creative way for kids to keep track of their successes and learn how to keep improving their gardening skills.

garden journal
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