Gardening with Kids: Summer Planting
By JenB of Jen and Tonic
Some of you have read the first two installments and not planted anything yet, right? I understand. We mean to get to it, or the kids don’t seem interested or perhaps it feels like you have to buy too many things to get things growing.
A friend told me a story about how she grew up in a large urban area, no real gardening, mostly apartment dwellers. I guess a bird must have dropped a seed in an old abandoned plant pot on the fire escape, because by summer time a beautiful sunflower had bloomed. Sunflowers would be a great place to start if you haven’t yet. Get any only pot, some dirt, and a few dwarf or mini sunflowers. Add water, and sun and by the middle of the summer you should have blooms. They will make you happy, your kids will be overjoyed that something so simple and tiny created something so much bigger and yellow and flowery.
Lettuce, Beans and Wheat Grass
A few other things that are not too late to grow are 1) baby greens or mixed lettuce (pictured below) 2) scarlet runner beans, and 3) wheat grass or cat grass in a planter.
In the same manner as the sunflower, all you need is soil and seeds. With not as much sun will give you a salad in 6-8 weeks for the lettuce. Lettuce is a cool weather crop, meaning it doesn’t need full on southern exposure to flourish. All of these supplies are available at your local home improvement center or hardware store.
The scarlet beans will need a trellis, but we have had quick growing success with ours and they made the move over to a cooler place in the new house hardily. The cat grass needs some sun, but it grew REALLY quickly and the cats had a good nosh.
The best luck we had in starting seeds in pots, were with the cucumbers. We had so many seedlings I was giving them away. Just putting them in little peat pellets (see potted vegetables article) in their mini greenhouse on a window sill made them all burst forth. Our biggest challenge was too many! And the labels of what types of cucumbers we planted got, um, rearranged. It was adult and not child error in this case. We have the cucumbers in pots next to the sunniest side of the house and Charlotte insists we say hello! every time we walk by. We have high hopes and are putting stakes and sticks in all the pots in case they need to climb onto anything!
Fun with Flower Beds
One of the last things we did in our mother-daughter gardening extravaganza was sow seeds by hand directly into our flower beds in the yard. Dad did help by holding the bowl of seed mix. There are several seeds you can literally toss into sparse patches in your flower beds, or heck, wherever there is dirt to be had. You can plant poppies, marigolds, zinnias, larkspurs (my favorite), California blue bells, sunflowers, cornflower, cosmos, forget-me-nots and others. Again, you can check the back of your seed package to see if you can directly sow your choice of flower into your yard. The key to doing this with your kid (ok, and my husband) was to mix the seeds with something else. The reason you can sow these flowers into your soil directly is because they are tiny and you needn’t do much more then rake the soil with your fingertips in order to get the seeds deep enough. I mixed our teeny seeds with lentils for bigger seeds, rice for smaller seeds and in the end, a mix of everything plus some slightly damp soil. I learned to do this because when a child, well, my child, is given a thimble sized amount of poppy seeds, they all get dumped at one into a tiny spot. It took practice and encouragement to get Charlotte to throw and toss those seeds into the flower bed. We tried this at the house we recently moved out of. I hope the new owners appreciate the sudden color later in the summer. I ended up just giving Charlotte more rice to throw because she really had her groove-on, throwing seeds.
So you are not off the hook yet. There are still a lot of options in the next few weeks. I know some kids are just getting out of school and these are some good activities for children of a wide age-range.
You can do most or all of these fun gardening projects, depending how south you live. Some of you are lucky to be able to grow certain things all year round. A simple search on Google should tell you when you can still put seeds in the ground and expect blooms or veggies before a frost, if you even get frost where you live. We have tight constraints around here, in Canada, the gardening season is short and if you don’t get a jump on it right away, you have fewer options from which to choose. I hope hope hope you try some of these ideas, remember, it is not too late! Please ask questions or at the very least check out the flowers photos people are putting up on Flickr for next year’s inspiration.
Published June 16, 2008. Last updated August 21, 2013.