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Garden with your kids

Abbi Perets lives in Houston, TX, with her husband and five children.






Kid-friendly gardening

It's that time of year when you'd love an excuse to spend some time outdoors. And what kid can resist digging in the dirt? Plan and plant a garden with your kids, and you'll reap the benefits -- and the bounty -- all summer long!

Family Gardening

Planting a garden can seem terribly intimidating if you've never done it before. But it's actually an easy project to tackle, and one that's enhanced by having kids help out. You've still got time to get some great things in the ground, and if you plant now, you'll enjoy a rich summer harvest of yummy treats and beautiful things to see.


Plan your plot

One of the first things you need to decide is where you'll plant your garden. You can turn this into a mini-science experiment and solicit help from your kids. First, check out possible locations on your property, and then make a chart. On the top row, list each of your locations. Down the side, list hours, starting at 8 am and continuing through 6 pm.

Have the kids check each spot at the designated times and mark them as full sun, partial sun or full shade. (You can use icons, stickers or words for this -- whatever makes it fun for your kids.) Run the experiment over two or three days to account for any cloudiness.

Get online and find the kids some information on why you need to know how much sun each area gets.


Plan your plants

Now that you've figured out where your garden will be, it's time to plan your plants. Let each child select two or three favorites -- either things they like to eat or things they'd like to see. Then, go online and look up the varieties that will do best in your region. Just Google "best [plant] to plant in [your city or region]."

Next, figure out if you'll put your seeds directly in the ground, or if you'll use containers. Containers are great for smaller areas, backyards covered in concrete, and areas with poor soil conditions.

The downside is that you have to buy the containers and potting mix. Fortunately, you can find a great selection of containers at your local dollar store. You might also find potting mix there, but more likely you'll have to pick up a bag at a garden supply center.

If you're planting directly in the ground, you'll need a few decent shovels. You can buy these at a dollar store, but the ones you'll find at the hardware store will last longer.


Get out and garden

Head to your local big-box store to buy your seeds, or visit a local nursery, where you'll likely find more personal attention and plants better suited to your climate. Call ahead -- some nurseries are also home to petting zoos and other excitement, so you may be able to make a day of it.

You'll also want to get a few pairs of gardening gloves -- the dollar store is a great place to purchase these, too. Look for gardening shears and smaller tools for your kids to use, too.

You can spend as much or as little as you want on a garden. If this is your first foray, set a budget of no more than $50, and aim for closer to $20. Seed packets can be found for pennies; seedlings (young plants) are generally a few dollars each.

Seeds and seedlings generally come with instructions on planting, watering and so on. Follow these instructions, and you should do pretty well.

Think of your first growing season as a learning experience. You will make mistakes, but you'll also get a few plants that will bloom beautifully in spite of mishaps. You'll have time outdoors with your kids in beautiful weather, and you may even put some fantastic colors on your table.

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