Tips for Fall Gardening with Kids

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Kid boy and mother planting strawberry seedling into fertile soil outside in garden

While summer gardens are fantastic, there are many benefits to starting a garden in the fall — or even in the winter if you want to start seeding indoors for the spring. Summer is filled with vacations and summer camp and distracted kids. In the fall, families settle back into their routines of school and work, which is why a fall garden is a fun family project.

A garden is the perfect ongoing activity to fight after-school boredom. It’s also a project that everyone in the family can contribute to on the weekends. Here are a few tips to make your little one’s garden safe, fun, and functional.

6 Tips for Gardening with Kids

1. Educate yourself first.

Your kids are going to look to you for guidance. Educate yourself so you can share that knowledge with them. Learn about your regional conditions, how to choose an optimal site, drainage, and what to plant seasonally where you live. Don’t forget to learn when to harvest. Look up first frost data from years past, mark a date estimate on your calendar, and keep an eye on the weather.

2. Let your kids lead the way.

After you’ve shared what you know, let them design their garden. Kids gardens need to be kid-based. You’re there to guide them and help with the construction, but let them create it. Ask questions of them throughout their decision-making process so they can determine the flowers or seasonal produce, how the garden should be arranged, and where to build it. The more invested the are, the more likely they are to maintain interest and care for it.

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photo credit: emile et ida

3. Let your kids get dirty!

Kids are washable. Put them in appropriate clothing that’s easy to care for and let them dig in! This isn’t the time to stress about stains and dirt behind the ears. To make potty breaks easier, you can wrap plastic bags around their shoes before they go inside. Accept that there will be a bit of cleanup required as they track some dirt into the house.

4. Bugs are our friends!

The instinct to jump when you see a spider may be ingrained, but try to resist the urge when you’re teaching your kids how to maintain a garden. Insects such as worms, beetles, and spiders are an integral part of the garden’s ecosystem. As part of your research and education you could look up what each bug does to help the garden. If you react with a “Wow! Cool! This bug does this for the plants!” Your kids will be more likely to adopt the same attitude and respond with curiosity instead of fear.

5. Don’t use chemicals.

While it may be more challenging, don’t use chemicals — or let your children use chemicals — on the garden. Tiny fingers have a tendency to wander into tiny mouths (dirt and all!) and that’s a recipe for disaster for your little ones. You and your children can learn about natural and organic fertilizers and pesticides that you can make together.

6. Keep it light and fun!

Don’t worry about aesthetics. Guide your children to make choices so their project will work, but let go of little things like perfectly straight rows or decorative accents. Your first concern should be to keep the garden functional for the kids. For example, if you decide the make a raised garden bed using cinder blocks because the soil is hard and the kids want to paint the blocks — let them! Your idea of what is pretty may not be the same as theirs.

Flowers are bright and fun, but don’t forget to incorporate plenty of vegetables and fruits! Kids are very likely to eat what they grow. For more ideas for fun activities for kids, visit Angelibebe at

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