As a small child one of my favorite books was one about a little chick called Is It Springtime Little Chick? In this book a sweet little chick goes around asking if it is spring. He finally learns it is all around him with green grass, pretty flowers, and warm sunny days. Here in Central Texas it is a little trickier question. Yesterday was warm and cloudy, last week there was a day that was very near 80, and next week is set to be downright cold! Don’t let the weather fool you though, it is here.
In celebration we decided to start a small container garden. My 4 year-old has been learning about plants in her learning co-op and my 9 year-old loves gardening like her grandmas. Let’s face it, my 2 year-old little guy just wants to play in the dirt!
To start you will need a container that is the right size for what you are wanting to maintain. Something big enough to be able to keep well watered, but small enough to not be a daunting task. We chose one that is about one cubic foot (think one foot high, wide, and deep). This particular planter is just right to not tip over while 3 kids crowd around.
Additionally you will want to select what you want to grow. We chose four container variety herbs and spinach. These plants won’t grow too large, and will enjoy the attention of a container garden. Other options may be a salad garden, or a small strawberry patch. Tomatoes do well too. Companion plantings can be a great lesson for kids so they can learn how each plant helps the other. Finally, you can select plants that can repel insects.
Make certain that when you are filling your pot with a quality soil that you have plenty of drainage. The last thing you want to do is risk drowning your poor plants! To achieve this use some medium size gravel or river rocks to line the bottom. Some people enjoy using alternatives to this like styrofoam to help keep the weight down. Also, leave the top inch or two of the pot above the soil level. When you go back to water it the soil can take some time to absorb the water. This lip can keep the water from running off and not getting down to the roots.
Read your planting instructions. Seeds will have a planting depth and will give you an idea of how long it will take to germinate (waiting for this is half the fun!). If you purchased starts (growing plants) you will want to place them in the soil so that they are just a little below the top of the soil in your pot. If they are very root bound (look at the roots when you take them out of their first pot, lots of roots showing and not as much soil, these roots are bound up and out of room) gently pull them loose. Don’t break them all off!
Once it is all potted up make sure to give it a good watering. While we seldom get to frosting cold here it does happen occasionally. Simply cover it with a small blanket on such nights. If it is small enough and you are worried you can even bring it in for a night, though that can affect the hardiness of your plants (their ability to weather cool weather).
With your small garden started you and the kids can enjoy the anticipation of watching it all grow and the benefits of keeping one. Simple lessons like the daily responsibility of tending the plants are great for kids of all ages. Welcoming spring with a new little pot of goodies is a great way to welcome the warmer and crazy weather.