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.
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
Outdoor Garden in the Yard
Flower, Vegetable, Herb, or Combo
Hydroponics for Kids Who Love Space
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.
Partial Sun & Shade
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
LED LIGHTS – MOST POPULAR FOR INDOOR GARDENS
GOOSENECK TABLE TOP: EZORKAS
- Full spectrum light
- 4-head light has a 360-degree flexible gooseneck
- Timer setting
- Nine dimmable modes
- Metal clamp
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!
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
Fluorescent (Traditional Style)
Compact Fluorescent Systems
High-Intensity Discharge (HID) Bulbs
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
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
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 (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
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.
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, and composting, with advice on cooking utensils and healthy diets. It was 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 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
Gardening Under Lights: The Complete Guide for Indoor Growers: flowers and edibles.
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
The Big Sis