Yet another year has gone by and after a year of COVID ups and downs, we are once again at the start of our growing season. As usual, this is the season for weeding, sifting and fertilising our garden soil, and for preparing our containers and hanging baskets before starting to plant.

However, this might also be the time for parents and grandparents to get young children interested in gardening, if they are not already, thanks to extra time at home during pandemic social restrictions. Children enjoy the magic of growing while also benefitting from its many advantages. Time spent outside digging, planting, weeding and watering is healthy, keeping children physically active and helping them to strengthen their muscles and coordination.

Watching seeds sprout and plants grow, flower and yield encourages their curiosity and develops their knowledge of botany and connection to nature. They become observant of birds, butterflies and bees. Through gardening, they will hopefully understand how important it is to take care of our planet. After all, children are the Earth’s future custodians.

“Might I have a bit of earth?” asks Mary Lennox in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic The Secret Garden. Like Mary, children appreciate a garden plot they can call their own. They can then decide what they want to grow and make mistakes without affecting the other plants in the garden. Three feet by three feet is a good size to start with.  If you do not have a garden, use containers or pots instead.

Tips Encouraging Children to Garden

  • Make it fun.
  • Invest in child-sized garden tools such as spades, rakes, trowels, forks and hoes. If you have a compost heap, buy a child’s wheelbarrow. A child-sized watering can is also a good idea.
  • Let your child choose what to grow based on his or her interests. If food is the main attraction, grow healthy snack foods such as radishes, sweet peppers, carrots and beans. If flowers are more appealing, choose brightly coloured flowers, including nasturtiums, pansies, sunflowers, marigolds and snapdragons when they are in season.
  • Choose herbs with different textures that appeal to the senses of touch and smell—for example, basil, rosemary, sage and thyme.

Green Beans and Radishes
These plants are ideal for children to grow because their seeds, large enough for small hands to hold, are sown directly into the ground and germinate quickly. They can be grown in containers, as well as in a garden plot. Children can witness the whole process of seed to harvest. For both plants, the earth should be loosened, cleared of sticks and stones, and fertilised with compost or organic fertiliser.


  • Choose bush bean seeds rather than pole bean.
  • Make rows of shallow trenches in the soil, 1 inch deep.
  • Drop bean seeds into trenches, 4 inchesapart.
  • Cover the seeds with soil, gently pushing it down.
  • Water lightly so the soil is damp but not soggy.
  • Watch them sprout—from 7–10 days. Two seed leaves will first appear, then regular bean leaves.
  • Regularly water lightly.
  • Seed to harvest time is 50–65 days, depending on the variety. Check on the seed packet.


  • Make rows of shallow trenches in the soil, ⅟2 inch deep.
  • Drop radish seeds into trenches, 3–5 inches apart.
  • Cover the seeds with soil, gently pushing it down.
  • Water lightly so the soil is damp but not soggy.
  • Watch them sprout—from 5–10 days. Two seed heart-shaped leaves will first appear, then regular radish leaves.
  • Fertilise with a liquid fertiliser at half strength once their true leaves appear.
  • Regularly water lightly.
  • Seed to harvest time is 25–70 days, depending on the variety. Check on the seed packet.

If you have planted radishes too close together, thin them after they have sprouted. Pull out the weaker looking seedlings.

Did you know?

  • Radishes are healthy snacks because they contain folate, riboflavin, potassium, copper, B6, calcium, magnesium and manganese, as well as vitamin C. They are low in cholesterol and 1 cup contains just 20 calories.
  • Northern cardinals love to eat sunflower seeds.
  • Monarch butterflies depend on milkweed, available in seed or plant form at local nurseries. Growing it,children can observe the butterfly’s cycle from egg to caterpillar, chrysalis to butterfly. They can also save the seeds from the pods to grow more plants.

Themed Gardens
Often children love to design and create their own fantasy gardens. For instance, they might like to grow a rainbow garden by choosing plants that represent colours of the rainbow. See below for three more ideas. Use seedlings, not seeds. Let your child do as much of the choosing and work as possible.

Pizza Garden
It’s better to make this in a garden plot. Prepare and fertilise the soil.

  • Create a circle of 51 inches diameter and divide it into four wedges or parts.
  • In the centre of each division, plant a fruit or vegetable seedling that you can use as an ingredient for a pizza. You could try planting a cherry tomato seedling, a green bell pepper, a red sweet pepper and chives.
  • When the crops are ready, use them to make a pizza.

Fairy and Dinosaur Gardens
Containers work well. Some local nurseries sell specially designed fairy garden containers. But you could use a salt codfish crate or an old box with holes drilled in the base.

  • Line the base with a few rocks or broken pieces of terracotta pots for drainage.
  • Fill crate or box with fertilised potting soil.
  • Choose seedlings and plants from a garden centre.
  • Help your child draw a simple design on a piece of paper, The design could include paths, walls and a lake, in addition to plants.

Fairy Garden

  • Plant annuals with small flowers, such as hopping John, violas, alyssum, lobelia, as well as miniature ferns.
  • Make walls and paths out of small pieces of Bermuda stone, twigs or casuarina berries.
  • Press a small mirror into the soil for a lake.
  • Make a fairy door out of cardboard or thin plywood.
  • Place a few bought fairies and elves in the garden.

Dinosaur Garden

  • Plant miniature succulents and cacti—they last and need little maintenance.
  • Make palm trees out of Play-Doh or cardboard and arrange them.
  • Place a few small toy dinosaurs in the garden.

Flower Planting Guide

Celosia, cosmos, gazania, globe amaranth

Ageratum, antirrhinum, aster, aubrieta, begonia, bells of Ireland, candy-tuft, carnation, centaurea, chrysanthemum, cineraria, dahlia, dianthus, geranium, gerbera, gypsophila, impatiens, larkspur, lathyrus, nasturtium, nicotiana, pansy, petunia, phlox, rudbeckia, salipiglossis, salvia, statice, snow-on-the-mountain, spider flower/cleome, star-of-the-veldt, stock, sweet William, verbena and viola.  

Vegetable Planting Guide

Beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, cucumber, eggplant, kale, leeks, mustard greens, parsley, pepper, potatoes, radish, rutabaga, tomato, turnip.

Beets, chives, onion, spinach, squash, strawberry, thyme.