I grew up in the suburbs but married a 7th-generation farmer. We’re raising our three children: Cedar, Sylvan, and Hazel, on a 260-acre piece of land in rural Kentucky. For as long as they can remember, our children have been part of spring activities on the farm. They help us feed the baby chicks that arrive by mail in March. They learn to walk in the hoop house where their dad, Adam, plants seeds in February that will feed our community from May-October through our customizable CSA Farm Share program. It’s a wonderful, life enriching experience for them - but you don’t have to live on a farm to enjoy the life cycle of plants and animals. Now is a great time to bring the farm home and learn about spring growth with your own little ones!
Growing Plants with Kids - A Great Project for Spring!
In Kentucky, the prevailing wisdom is that we don’t plant outside until after Derby. That doesn’t mean we can’t start seeds inside. An egg carton, dirt and a few seeds are all you need to make your own “Egg Carton Greenhouse.” You can start seeds inside now and move them outdoors into the ground or a larger planter after the threat of frost is past.
Cherry tomatoes and peppers are great plants to grow at home in pots. They will continue to fruit and provide entertainment for your child all summer. If your child likes a reward sooner, fast-growing flowers like calendula and marigolds are beautiful and beneficial for the garden.
Kid-Friendly Crafts with Plants
Herbs are also very fun plants to start inside. This herb terrarium project uses baby herb plants to makes a beautiful centerpiece for under $15. It’s a great project to inspire creativity in little kids and big kids alike! Plus, herb plants are priced by size, so buying small herb starts now is like an investment in your summer garden. They grow very fast and by May will be ready to be transferred to a bigger pot or planted outside. You can plant some established herbs (like lavender, thyme, and mint) directly in the ground in May and they’ll be able to survive the next winter. Others are more delicate (like rosemary) and should stay in a pot you can bring indoors next winter. Most seed packs or plant tags will give information about plant hardiness in our ‘planting zone’.
Be in the Know About Bugs
If you have a kid that enjoys bugs you have a great teaching moment. Bugs are essential to plant health. Bees and butterflies spread pollen. Some bugs like ladybugs and lacewings and help us by eating the pests that destroy crops. We are really lucky to have a great resource in the area. Idlewild Butterfly Farm teaches kids (and their parents) about beneficial insects and plants that attract good bugs, and hold events where you can learn more about how bugs help plants grow. It is fun to get supplies to raise a butterfly at home and release it. It’s even better if you raised a plant that butterflies love to feed your baby butterfly!
It’s OK if Your Project Doesn’t Work!
Life can seem like one giant science experiment - and with experiments come successes and failures. Sometimes that seed just won’t sprout. It’s ok - there is plenty to learn from a seed that doesn’t sprout as well as the seed that does. Half the fun is in exploring together with curious minds. If the plant doesn’t grow, draw a plant together that you imagined. Hypothesize about what might happen next time. Most importantly, have fun, no matter what the result. Each day on the farm can be an adventure if we let it, and the same can hold true when you bring the farm home.
Note: This article originally appeared on Macaroni Kid Louisville East in March 2019
About the Author:
Rae Strobel and Adam Barr are raising three small children on their 7th generation family farm in Rhodelia, KY. They also raise organic vegetables, pastured pork and chicken, and 100 % grass-fed beef. Their new customizable CSA / Farm Share makes getting fresh vegetables from a local farm easier than ever with an online order dashboard, home delivery, and flexible subscription options for every type of family. Learn more about their farm here.