Watching a tomato plump and ripen to a bright red hue is magical. Is this finally the year you’re starting a family garden? Congrats! Colorado has the perfect climate to grow a variety of vegetables and herbs to liven up your summer and fall meals. Let’s dig in!
Starting a Garden With Kids
There’s nothing better than spending a spring afternoon playing in the dirt and making memories together. Gardening helps kids of all ages learn where our food comes from and how to nurture a plant so it can grow and thrive.
To get ready, let’s figure out which plants grow best in our area, what types of plants to choose and how we can work together to make the garden flourish.
What Grows in Colorado?
Head to the backyard and find the perfect little plot of land to start your garden. Or, make a spot on the patio for a container garden. You’ll want to choose an area with ample sun and access to the garden hose, then add a little compost and bagged manure to the Colorado soil to ensure planting success.
Since our soil is a little more alkaline the other areas, the best starter plants to grow in our region include:
- Strawberries: perfect for pots or in-ground
- Cucumbers: mini for pickling and full-size for eating plain
- Tomatoes: mini cherry or larger slicing varieties
- Squash: pumpkins, zucchini, acorn
- Leafy vegetables: spinach, kale, lettuce
- Herbs: Basil, chives, mint, oregano
If you want to edge your garden with colorful flowers, try hearty marigolds to naturally keep pesky bugs away and fragrant lavender that can be added to lemonade or tea!
Planting Seeds vs. Seedlings
Once you decide which plants you want to try growing, you’ll have to pick between planting seeds or purchasing small spouted plants known as seedlings. Both can go into soil starting in May.
If you want your children to see the magic of plant growth from start to finish, choose seeds. They take a bit longer to mature into sturdy plants, but there’s nothing more intriguing than seeing those first green shoots pierce the soil and reach toward the sun.
If you’re getting a late start on your garden, or the kids are little impatient, pick up a few seedlings. The moment they go into the ground, the kids can start checking on the growing progress, looking for tiny blossoms or start pruning damaged leaves.
You can also buy seedlings, such as tomato plants that are already 12 to 24 inches tall, well-established and ready to start bearing produce in a few weeks to speed up the gardening process.
Pay close attention to the labels on seed packets and seedling containers. Some plants are annuals, which means they will only live and grow for one season. Once winter weather arrives, the plant will die off. Perennial plants, on the other hand, will come back year after year, so plant them in an area where they can grow and thrive for the next several years.
Gardening Tasks for Kids
After you’ve chosen a location for the garden, the kids can get dirty right away. If you’re digging into the ground, use a tiller to loosen the soil. The kids can carry away clumps of grass. If you’re going with containers, let the kids dump bags of potting soil into the pots. Let them be messy. The garden hose can help clean up any spills later!
Once the seeds to seedlings are in the soil, let the kids help with:
- Watering: Do this each evening during the first week the plants are in the ground. Then, water the garden three times a week or more often during hot, dry spells.
- Pruning: Plants like tomatoes thrive when the lower branches and leaves nearest the soil are carefully peeled away or snipped off with garden sheer. This job is for supervised teens!
- Weeding: Everyone in the family can help pull out anything that shouldn’t be growing in the garden. Make it into a contest and see who can make the biggest pile of weeds!
- Harvesting: Once your produce is colorful and fully matured, work with your kids to remove the goodies from the plants. Take the fruit and veggies indoors, give them a through washing and put them to use in your meal planning. This process is sure to make your little ones more intrigued with the fresh foods on their plates.
Are you starting a family garden this weekend? Be sure to review our Ultimate Planting Guide for more tips and ideas before you head off to the garden center for supplies. Happy planting!