Plant a Patio Garden

Make a patio garden with your kids.

No Yard? Plant a Patio Garden with Kids

Whether you live in a high-rise apartment or a house with limited green space, your family can reap the benefits of gardening together. Gardening teaches kids patience, responsibility and how to eat more vegetables, so don’t be left out due to lack of space. Follow these simple steps to start a thriving container garden.

Collect containers.
Gather containers that are at least 10 inches wide and 12 inches deep, or for vining plants, 20 inches wide. Reuse five-gallon buckets or peruse thrift shops or flea markets with your children in search of gardening pots. Steer clear of black containers because they absorb sunlight, which can cause soil to dry out and create endless watering. If the container doesn’t have a way to drain, drill ¼-inch holes in the bottom. This will help keep the plant moist, but won’t make the roots so wet they rot. You can also save empty milk cartons, eco-friendly cardboard egg cartons, and paper cups for indoor windowsill seedlings. Read tips for picking an eco-friendly pot below.

Choose vegetables.
Great vegetables for container gardening are tomatoes, cucumbers, beets, green beans, green onions, herbs and potatoes. Vining plants (like cucumbers or tomatoes) may need a trellis. Start small the first year and add more as you grow more knowledgeable and confident.

“Children like to see results,” says Melissa Halas-Liang, founder of SuperKids Nutrition. “Pick a vegetable that doesn’t take a long time to reach its harvest.” She recommends lettuce, squash or zucchini (check for varieties suitable for container gardening). Basil is a good option because it has a high nutritional value. “Basil has a ton of antioxidants, and a couple of tablespoons of basil is the equivalent of a small serving of vegetables,” Halas-Liang says.

Plant seeds.
Use soil designed for container gardening. If you want to start your plants from seed, you may want to start early, depending on the growing season. Optional: You can put a seed in a Ziploc bag with a damp paper towel, tape it to the window glass and it watch it sprout.

Plant your seedlings where they will get six hours of direct sunlight; water them, but not so much that they drown. Do a daily test by sticking your finger an inch into the soil. If it feels dry, the plant needs water.

Keep watch.
Work together as a family, sharing the responsibility of watering and checking the plants. Children are usually eager to help and enjoy the cycle of growing produce. Watch for any problems such as disease or soil issues. If you encounter plant problems, ask a neighbor who gardens for help or consult your local nursery.

Reap the rewards of your harvest.
Let your children help pick the “fruits” of their labor (in this case vegetables).

With a little planning and some creative containers, your family can harvest cultivation skills, time together, and healthy food—without leaving the patio!

Note: Tips for Picking an Eco-friendly Pot.
When choosing containers for a patio garden, there are many clever ideas that promote recycling. Some creative choices include shoes, wagons, old sinks and tubs. While it is a good idea to repurpose when we plant, some containers may have toxins or chemicals that can leach out into the soil and the food you grow. To be on the safe side, follow these tips:

Know the container’s history. Find out what materials the container was made from and what it was used for, if possible. If you don’t know, look for a different container.

If the container is old or painted, make sure it doesn’t contain asbestos or lead paint.

Rethink using a set of wheels when planting vegetables. Tire rubber can leach chemicals into the soil.

Avoid plastic containers with a 3, 6 or 7 in the recycling triangle on the bottom. These can also release toxins.

When using natural wood planters, try untreated wood. Good choices are cedar, redwood, cypress and pine.

Old fabric shoe organizers, bags and even fabric pots make good containers.


--------------
Janeen Lewis is a freelance writer and green thumb in training. She loves to grow plants from seed to harvest with her two children.

Read more about gardening with kids in our article Help Kids Grow Strawberries.

Full STEAM Ahead - STEAM Bingo

Full STEAM Ahead - STEAM Bingo

Ready to have some fun with STEM (science, technology, engineering & math)? Complete at least one activity in each category (plus A for Art) to make STEAM. Challenge kids to "spell" STEAM differen . . .

Read more

Full STEAM Ahead: DIY STEM Kits for Kids

Full STEAM Ahead: DIY STEM Kits for Kids

Implementing open-ended STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) activities has numerous benefits to future makers, and encouraging students to tinker in a supportive environment promotes . . .

Read more

Full STEAM Ahead: 15-Minute STEM Activities

Full STEAM Ahead: 15-Minute STEM Activities

Fun, easy STEM activities are a great way to entertain kids and help them make unique discoveries at home. With a few simple, low-cost supplies and minimal directions, young scientists will be engag . . .

Read more

Full STEAM Ahead: STEM for Your Health

Full STEAM Ahead: STEM for Your Health

Increased screen time and busy schedules have led to a number of health issues, including decreased physical activity and unhealthy eating habits. Consider using easy STEM activities to help your fa . . .

Read more

STEM Activities for Kids

STEM Activities for Kids

With the popularity of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education in school, you might wonder what you can do at home to boost a child’s sense of curiosity and ability to problem-s . . .

Read more

Make a Bug Vacuum

Make a Bug Vacuum

Capture insects with ease using this simple DIY bug vacuum kids can make at home. Scientists capture bugs for study using a mouth-powered vacuum, called an aspirator or a pooter. Swallowing specimens . . .

Read more

Plant a Patio Garden

Plant a Patio Garden

No Yard? Plant a Patio Garden with Kids Whether you live in a high-rise apartment or a house with limited green space, your family can reap the benefits of gardening together. Gardening teaches kid . . .

Read more

Warty Licorice

Warty Licorice

Can you make a smooth piece of licorice grow warts? Do this science experiment with the kids to find out!Time: 5 minutesSkill level: Get a grown-upSuppliesTwizzlers licorice twists (the Pull-n-Peel . . .

Read more

How to Make a Box Oven

How to Make a Box Oven

There are several different types of box ovens you can make. These instructions are for a box oven with a hinged lid. If you use the sturdy materials recommended and take good care of it, you should b . . .

Read more

Build a Rocket

Build a Rocket

Imagine sweeping the dust from a giant rock formation to uncover an ancient dinosaur fossil, or peering through your backyard telescope to identify a hazy comet as it streaks across the sky. Sound e . . .

Read more

Straw Gliders

Straw Gliders

The next time you visit the beaches near Torrey Pines or La Jolla, be sure to look up at the sky. You may notice many colorful gliders soaring high above the ground. These gliders provide the ultima . . .

Read more

Acid Dissolving Test

Acid Dissolving Test

Here’s an easy, kid-friendly science project you can do at home!Time: 1 hourSkill level: MediumYour digestive system uses acid. Does that mean that acid dissolves candy?What you need:Candy that di . . .

Read more

Candy Chromatography

Candy Chromatography

  Many science experiments involve candy. Follow the directions below to find out how you can use science to determine how candies get their colors. Materials:Coffee filtersClear jars or cupsP . . .

Read more

Pizza Box Solar Cooker: Kids Science

Pizza Box Solar Cooker: Kids Science

Few things are more essential to a summer camping trip than marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers. Sure, you need a tent and a sleeping bag, but a campfire without s’mores just wouldn’t be . . .

Read more

Cooking with the Sun: Science with Kids

Cooking with the Sun: Science with Kids

Did you know that San Diego averages more than 260 sunny or mostly sunny days per year? All of this solar energy warms the air and ground and contributes to San Diego’s great climate. However ener . . .

Read more

San Diego Family Magazine Logo

Be Family Informed – Sign up for our Newsletters below!