Gardening with Littles
We are officially well into Spring! One of my favorite activities with my three little ones and past nanny kids is gardening. Gardening is wonderful because you can simplify it and get more complex depending on the age and interest of the children that you’re gearing it towards. Gardening also teaches many important life skills, including responsibility, patience, a plant’s lifecycle, and routine/care maintenance. Also, they truly get so proud of themselves when the fruit and veggies start to come in.
PS, it’s incredible how many more vegetables they will eat when they grow them themselves. The boys last year would run out in the morning, pick a cherry tomato, and eat it. They will not eat them from the store – no matter how hard I try.
Whether you’re new to gardening or are a seasoned gardener, here are some of my recommendations that I have personally enjoyed growing with my littles. These are all recommended to be planted in spring, so run to your local nursery and start planting. Last year, we got a head start and started in March.
It can take some time to see results when gardening, and your little ones can lose interest quickly. Lettuce is one of the fastest-growing vegetables, and it will undoubtedly please your toddlers and young preschoolers to see quick growth. Heck, it pleases me even. It takes a little over a month for lettuce to mature fully. So, you can be sure that you’ll see some progress during that month every few days.
Cucumbers are a great vegetable to grow when you’re just starting. I recommend buying cucumber starts at your local nursery for ease. Swanson’s Nursery in Seattle is highly rated and is local to many of you Seattle nannies. Once cucumber starts are planted in rich soil, they just take some sunshine and water. It is suggested to fertilize them once a month, and in about two months, you’ll have more cucumbers than you can eat!
Who doesn’t love chomping on fresh strawberries throughout the summer months? The great thing about planting strawberries is that they spread quickly and come back year after year when planted in quality soil. If you have access to one, I encourage you to plant these in a raised planter or singular container.
We were able to get some locally made last year and they were the quality I was looking for, many online will do, though they were terribly expensive. This will help avoid common diseases. One pesty thing about planting strawberries is that birds and pests LOVE them. So, covering your strawberries with a net will help deter unwelcome critters from snacking.
Boy, did my boys love sneaking out to eat cherry tomatoes off the vine last year! My dad loves growing as many as he possibly can and has every variety possible. I think this is where I got my love of tomatoes from. My favorite thing about planting tomatoes is that I always get a ton of them. Think tomato sauces, salads, and stewed tomatoes. There is some serious opportunity here for teaching recipes and cooking with your nanny kids. In my experience, tomatoes take a bit more maintenance due to the pruning necessary. Some simple pruning tips I learned last year are to prune off the leaves/branches closest to the ground, and if it’s a yellow flower or leaf, prune it.
Blueberries are a great choice if you have room in your yard and want to grow something larger with minimal maintenance. My three loved picking and snacking on their grandma’s pink lemonade blueberries last year, and I am certain they will be at it again this summer. They grow well under a bit of shelter or in full sun, and you will only need to water them a few times a week or less. They are a favorite to birds and squirrels, so like strawberries, a net is recommended.
So, what if you live in an apartment or a space with a smaller yard? Well, I can promise you that you can garden in even the smallest spaces. We used these planting bags from Amazon last year to grow almost everything including potatoes, you can use them to grow various produce such as onions, bell peppers, carrots, lettuce, and sweet potatoes.
If you feel like gardening may not be ideal for the children in your care or if you’re looking for an alternative option. U-pick farms are a great choice! My 2, 4, and 5-year-old have loved picking all the berries they can possibly fit in our bucket, year after year. Here are a few U-picks in the greater Seattle area. Most of these farms don’t have their U-picks open quite yet. Keep an eye on their websites since they should be updating soon.
Remlinger Farms: They charge by the pound and offer strawberry and raspberry picking. They are open Wednesday-Sunday and are in Carnation, WA. Make a day out of it by having lunch at their café. They offer a variety of kid-friendly foods and if you find the energy they have the cutest amusement park for little kids - my three love this outing.
Pearson’s Bee’s and Berry’s: Blueberry fields galore! They are located in Renton, WA, and offer you a 1-gallon bucket when you arrive that can hold up to 6 pounds of blueberries. Little ones are welcome to bring small translucent containers for their own picking. They offer a parking lot for pregnant and disabled folks and street parking for the general public. They are typically open for picking from Mid-July through August. Appointments for picking are starting in early July.
Swans Trail Farm: I love this U-Pick because they have something to pick in fall and summer and it is not far from home. Strawberry picking starts in late May, and apples and pumpkins in the Fall. We have done both for many years and both are such fun. If you’re looking for a fun event this summer, they have a Baby Animals and Berries Festival happening for two weekends in June. We have tickets already - hope to see you there!
I hope this helps you brainstorm some options for this summer.