A Potted Garden for Little Green Thumbs
Gardening offers many benefits for kids. They learn about the science of plants and the environment. They learn about responsibility, reasoning, cooperation, creativity, and even nutrition. Most importantly, they learn the love of nature. A potted garden is a fun and easy way to nurture your child’s green thumb. Here’s what we learned from the book Small-Space Container Gardens by Fern Richardson:
Potted gardens have many advantages, mainly it’s flexibility! No backyard? No problem! Balconies, patios, front porch steps, even windowsills make excellent settings for a container garden. So break out the pots and planters and start gardening with your little green thumb.
Choosing Your Plants
Find Out Your Plant Hardiness Zone
This USDA Plant Hardiness Zone map shows the average minimum temperature of your region. Do pick a plant that works for your zone. A thriving garden is more enjoyable than one that’s high maintenance. Better yet, grow plants native to your area. They’re not only easier to grow, but also important for local wildlife.
Observe Your Shade Pattern
Does your garden get 6 or more hours of direct sun? Pick plants with tags that say “full sun.” “Partial sun,” and “partial shade” need about 3-6 hours of sun. Spaces that get light filtered by leaves, branches, or other things are also in this category. “Full shade” plants can only endure very little filtered light.
Annual vs. Perennial
Annual plants have a life cycle of one year, then you’ll need to replant. The plants bloom all season long (brightly and showy, too), are more affordable than perennials, and are great for those who like to experiment yearly.
Perennials live for many seasons, so there’s no hassle of replanting every year. On the flipside, they may not bloom for the first year, and blooming periods are quite short.
Make sure you plant annuals with annuals, and perennials with perennials, so as not to damage the perennials’ roots when you pull out annuals at the end of the season.
What Purpose Do You Want the Garden to Serve?
Do you want your garden to attract wildlife?
- Butterflies love Black-eyed Susans (hardy up to zone 5 in containers), Butterfly weeds (zones 5-10), and Chrysanthemums (zones 10-11).
- Birds love Asters (zones 4-9), Coral Bells (zones 5-11), and the “hummingbird magnet” Pineapple Sage (zones 9-11).
- Bees love the English Lavender (zones 5-11), Spanish/French Lavender (zones 8-11), Rosemary (zones 8-10), and Wallflowers (zones 6-9)
Are you planting for fragrance?
Chocolate Daisies (zones 6-8), Star Jasmine (zones 9-11), and scented Geraniums (fragrance come from leaves rather than flowers) are lovely options. Miniature Roses (can be hardy down to zone 5) work really well in containers!
Fresh herbs are the perfect way to enhance the flavor of dishes and really thrive in containers! Some of our annual favorites include basil, cilantro, and dill. Perennials include mint, rosemary, parsley, oregano, thyme, and sage.
Picking out Containers
Size-wise, it’s a good rule to choose pots that are shaped similarly to the plant (short and wide, tall and narrow, etc.)
Different materials have their advantages and disadvantages. Metal pots won’t crack in the winter, but will cook your plants in full sun. Plastic is lightweight and affordable, but easily blown away. Terracotta wicks excess water, shields roots from the heat, but dries out and crumbles over time. Wood can last a long time, if you don’t leave it soaking.
You can get creative and not even use store bought pots. Look around your house – old bins, baskets, bowls all work, just drill holes on the bottom!
Garden ornaments, pinwheels, solar lights, fountains, birdbaths, and feeders are easy ways to add extra pops of color and interest to your garden. Wind chimes and bells are not only pretty, but also function as white noise.
Gardening Tools for Kids
Invest in an adorable watering can – now you’ve got a fun, daily chore for the kids! Mini gardening tools and gloves encourage little ones to get down and dirty!
Do you have a green thumb, or do you kill everything you touch? If you’re the former, leave us your gardening tips! The latter, tell us what you do, so we don’t make the same mistakes!