Have you ever thought of growing food with young children, but you don’t know how? Check out these tips and steps for how to start a preschool garden.
Starting a preschool garden
I had a lot to learn and seemingly NO natural instinct when it came to growing things. My mom was always growing stuff and my grandmother seemed to have magic powers when it came to growing. I never understood why I couldn’t.
I have been providing childcare in my home for over 23 years. Plenty of kids were interested in growing, but with two black thumbs of death, I just didn’t have the knowledge I needed to help the kids learn to start a preschool garden.
My daycare name is Little Sprouts Learning Garden, can you tell that I had hopes for a children’s garden for the daycare? But I just figured it wasn’t meant to be because I couldn’t find success.
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How we started our children’s daycare garden
In 2012 my friend Claudia called me and told me about a post card she got for a gardening class with kids. I was so excited and told her to sign me up. I’m so thankful she called because it changed the course of my life. I never got the card in the mail.
We traveled together to a nearby town for the classes for the multiple Saturdays that were required to participate. We got curriculum, tools, a 3 x 10 raised bed, soil, seeds, and a few plants. The classes had all types of information about children’s gardening, community gardening, nutrition and much more.
But the main Gardening 101 portion of the class was a life-changer for me. That portion was taught by Doug Walton, who has been working toward healthier lifestyles for people and communities his whole life.
He has been involved in bettering my community for years. As soon as he began to speak, Claudia and I were enraptured. We hung on his every word as we soaked up the knowledge we needed to change our future and the future of our daycare kids.
Children’s garden preschool
Doug talked about soil, which was one of our main problems. In the neighborhood we live in, there is no soil, only clay on top of shale on top of boulders. There is very little organic matter and nothing grows well here without amendments. It was one of those AHA! moments for me!
Doug also talked about water, space, sunlight, growing organically and everything else we needed to know for success. I continued to listen and write down information while I dreamed of growing food with the kids and passed excited notes to Claudia. She felt the same way and we were giddy with excitement dreaming out loud all the way home from class each week.
I had wanted to do more eco friendly things in my daycare and provide the kids with better food. This children’s garden for the daycare was the first big step.
Start a preschool garden
I had two black thumbs of death, but now I have helped my toddlers and preschoolers grow over 3,000 pounds of food in our garden. There are a few garden basics you need to know, and the rest is up to nature.
Our dream of starting a children’s garden began. We started with that 3 x 10 cedar raised bed and a couple of containers. After we had some success with that, we added more containers and a few more raised beds.
The second year we had a little more success in growing. We had filled all of our available garden space, so we looked for opportunities for expansion. We planted a few seeds in an empty field next to our yard but when the owner came to mow it on his big tractor, he couldn’t see our little rows of miracles and mowed them all down.
Children’s garden daycare
My husband went out to talk to him that day and asked him if we could use the land to grow things with our kids. He said we could grow whatever we wanted on the whole 8 acres! Fruit trees, gardens, whatever.
The property is zoned for a road and cannot have any structure built on it so he would love if we grew something there. I couldn’t believe my ears! So then began our expansion plans. And the rest is history! Click here to see how we built our raised beds in the expansion garden.
For more information about how to grow food, check out these more in-depth videos. You can learn about building raised beds, trellises and tomato cages, take a tour of our garden bed types, and get basic gardening 101 information. You can also get all the videos in a bundle and save.
Grow your own seedlings inside for the garden
- Plant seeds for something you want to eat. We grow mostly heirloom seeds also called open-pollinated. The reason is so we can save our own seeds to grow the next year.
- Potting mix and a container to hold it.
- A proper light source such as a grow light or a shop light with enough light to keep your seedlings growing strong. Most seedlings need more than just a sunny windowsill to grow strong enough to plant outside.
- A fan or source of air to circulate and provide enough gentle breeze to help the seedlings grow strong stems and roots.
- Water to keep them hydrated.
Planting seeds with kids
When you are ready to plant seeds with your kids, you need to get all your supplies ready ahead of time to keep the kid’s interest. Show them your excitement as you get ready to plant seeds. I write out the markers ahead of time so they can just make the holes and drop in the seeds and don’t have to wait for me in-between types of plants.
I show the kids how deep to make their holes by their knuckles. Tiny broccoli seeds for instance, go one knuckle deep, bigger seeds go two or three depending on the kind.
Then I tell them to cover the seeds gently and press down the soil no harder than they would rub their eye. The kids do this without my intervention, only those few words. At first, it took more than one try to get the seeds placed correctly, but now that we’ve done it a few times, they can do it without my help.
Once they plant seeds, you can let them mist the seeds with a spray bottle. They love this exercise and it’s great for building fine motor skills for writing. If you let the kids use a watering can or another form of water, they may wash away the seeds since it’s hard to control how much water comes out of the can.
If the seeds need more water, you can always pour some into the bottom of your tray before you put it under the light.
This week we worked on our spreadsheet to plan out where we will plant what in the spring. It’s important to plant your plants in a different area than you did the year before for pest control and soil health. So we took the spreadsheet from last year’s crops and chose new places to plant each thing and penciled in the names. We are super excited about growing stuff again this year. We can’t wait.
What to grow with kids
Our list of things to grow this year includes: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kohlrabi, carrots, peas, onions, potatoes, radishes, lettuce, kale, spinach, swiss chard, Brussels sprouts, summer squash, winter squash, pumpkins, corn, tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos, asparagus, nasturtiums, lavender, sunflowers, herbs, beans, cucumbers, artichokes, garlic, sweet potatoes, okra, watermelon, cantaloupe, and luffa gourds.
For an experiment that we have never grown before, peanuts. For planting times for each plant, check your local county extension website. If you live in zone 7, as we do, you can click here to see our planting time chart.
Oklahoma gardening tv show
When I was a kid, my family and I watched Oklahoma Gardening every Saturday morning. Our kids garden was featured on a segment of Oklahoma Gardening! Teach your kids to grow food and plant a kids garden with them today!
I have never wanted to be on TV, but let me tell you how it happened. Last year Oklahoma Gardening started a new contest to see viewer’s gardens. Participants had to submit photos of their gardens.
I thought this would be a great way to get the word out about what I’m doing at Little Sprouts. I am hoping to spread the joy and love for gardening with kids to as many people as possible because it’s so important.
Our segment is at the beginning of the show. My kids love the garden and they were adorable showing that to Oklahoma Gardening.
If you’d like to watch the full episode, click the link. It is a great episode packed with tons of valuable information.
Please leave a comment and tell me how you got started gardening! (whether you garden with kids or not) This children’s garden daycare garden is one of the best things I’ve ever done with my Little Sprouts.
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