Gardening with Kids: Fun Projects to Spark a Love of Nature

Learning to Garden with Grandma

Some of my dearest memories are from my grandmother’s garden in Florida. She taught me key lessons in plant care, like watering the roots when it’s hot outside because that’s where the plant needs the water most. 

The time spent outside during those formative years instilled in me a keen interest in plants and ideas of how I could help them grow. I wasn’t a dedicated gardener as a boy; no, I often did my chores in the garden in order to return to playing or climbing trees. But, I learned about the sweetness of hibiscus stems and how a flower turns into fruit, and respected the gifts the land gave us. 

My son is between infant and toddler, so I haven’t started gardening with him yet, but I see the wonder on his face when we walk into the backyard. The colors, smells, and fresh air engage him in a way the indoors can’t compete with. Once he’s over his “touch dirt and find out how it tastes” phase, we’ll try some more focused activities. If you want to engage your children in the garden, here are a few things I suggest.

Project 1: Delight their senses with herbs!

Herbs are fantastic plants to have in your garden. Their fragrant scents, unique tastes, and varying colors, shapes, and textures will intrigue your young ones while teaching them about the wonderful world of plants. 

This is a fun activity for you. Head to your local nursery, and have your child(ren) choose three different herbs. If you don’t already have a container, soil, and shovel, I suggest adding these to your purchase list. 

Plant the herbs together, and everyday watch them grow! Find ways to incorporate the herbs into your routine, like having your little one pluck mint to add to a fruit salad or basil leaves to garnish a dinner soup. This will help them build a relationship with plants and learn how they can enrich our everyday lives. And, because they planted the herbs (with you), they will feel a degree of pride to use “their” plants in your family meals. 

Project 2: Grow Flowers in Egg Cartons

For this activity, you will need an egg carton (or little cups that can hold ½ an egg’s worth of soil), flower seeds, and at least a cup of soil, but the amount of soil you use will depend on how many seeds you decide to start.

Follow the directions on the seed packet, and plant your seeds in the upcycled egg carton pods or cups! Your little one will love to see the seeds sprout and green grow above the surface of the soil. If your seeds don’t sprout, don’t give up, and use the opportunity to teach your child about the importance of trying again. 

There’s a magic in watching a seed grow into a plant! Keep the instructions on your seed packet close by, because you may need to transplant your flowers to a larger container when they reach a certain stage of growth. 

This activity will also teach your child how everyday household materials like egg cartons can be repurposed, which will grow an understanding of creativity and resourcefulness. 

Project 3: DIY Tea Blend!

This activity is garden-inspired, but it does not require you to grow anything yourself while still connecting your child with nature and plants. 

Acquire loose leaf dried peppermint, chamomile, and lemongrass. We recommend Mountain Rose Herbs because they are committed to high quality organic herbs, but these herbs are common and can often be found in local herb shops, and even in tea bags at the grocery store. 

Once you have your loose leaf herbs (if using tea bags because you don’t have access to loose leaf herbs, cut the bags open and add their content to a common container) you’re ready to go. Have your child smell the different herbs, and describe what they notice. Take a little bit from the jar and let them feel the plant matter (and add this to the compost/sprinkle outside after they have touched them), and talk about their observations.

After engaging with the herbs, it’s time for a tea blend! This can be done in bulk (creating a jar of tea blend) or for a single serving. 

Work with your child to decide how much of each herb you want in the blend, and add it in a consistent ratio to the jar/single serving. For example:

Example Blend 1

• 1 part peppermint

• 1 part lemongrass

• 1 part chamomile

Example Blend 2

• 1 part peppermint

• ½ part lemongrass

• 1 ½ parts chamomile

The combinations are endless! After you have put your blend together and gently mixed the plant matter around, it’s tea time! Boil two cups of water, and add your herbs. Let steep for at least 5 minutes, and strain into two cups. Add honey to taste, and enjoy this special blend you have created together. 

Please research all herbs and talk to your health provider before consuming.

Grow your relationship with the garden

Are you ready to get outside and put your hands in the dirt (or herbal plant matter) with your little one? Enjoy this special time with fresh air and good smells, and learn about the wonders of the garden together. 

Composting 101: Turning Waste into Garden Gold

There is no waste in nature

Have you ever wondered what your house or apartment would look like if you had to live with all your trash? How long would it take for your space to be full of waste?

Now consider this: 24% of what ends up in landfills is food waste. Uneaten food takes up more space in landfills than any other material. This is an issue for several reasons, but what we will focus on today is how that food could serve a greater purpose. 

Our food scraps and waste can nourish the earth! It can feed our plants so they can grow strong and healthy, and support our ecosystems. This is what is now known as composting. We collect our “waste” or scraps from organic material (fruits, vegetables, eggshells, moldy bread, etc), let the mixture decompose for a few months, and feed it to our gardens like an earth-smelling power smoothie.

Composting keeps food scraps out of landfills, supports our plants, and turns what would be “waste” into powerful fertilizer! Are you interested in learning to compost? Let me break down my process for you. 

How composting transformed my garden

When I moved into my house, my garden was a sad piece of land waiting for life-giving nutrients. It had been neglected and overlooked, but still housed life waiting to be nurtured. 

I started composting not long after immersing myself in plantcare, and my yard responded with enthusiasm. After churning the contents in my compost pit, I would walk around my yard and hit my churning shovels against each other to shake off any compost materials on them. This distributed compost, potent and powerful, around the land. From the barren dirt grew bright green grass and native plants. The flowers brought bees, and a thriving ecosystem followed. 

Years later, people often ask me about my secret. “How did you make the grass grow? Why is the space vibrant? What is it that you do here?”

My answer? Compost!

How to compost at home

I have spent years composting with this method, and it works tremendously well for me. I have a three-stage compost system:

1. Kitchen bin

    My kitchen bin is where I collect my food scraps and organic material like leaves from my houseplants. It generally takes 1-2 weeks to fill a bin, and then I move its contents to the outdoor bin. I don’t compost all organic materials like meat (this “What to Avoid Adding to a Backyard Compost Pile” is a great guide), but you would still be surprised at how much I separate from my trash can! Here is a list of what is common in my compost:

    1. Pepper stems

    2. Eggshells 

    3. Grapevines

    4. Banana peels

    5. Onion skin

    My indoor compost bins. I put citrus into the white bin as citrus will make your general compost too acidic. Keeping citrus is a personal choice; it is not essential for your home composting system.

    2. Outdoor tumble bin

    When my kitchen bin is full, I add its content to my outdoor tumble bin. Compost is meant to be a balance of carbon and nitrogen materials. Depending on how many stems, seeds, and rinds I have in my mix (these are referred to as “greens” (nitrogen-rich materials), I also put in some dead leaves from the yard, or a piece of cardboard (these are referred to as “browns,” or carbon-rich materials) to balance. The bin is split into compartments, each able to hold 21 gallons of compost. I fill one side at a time. Once that side is full, I fill the other. When the second side is full, usually after several months, I transfer the contents of the first side to my final stage. I let the first side sit for the few months to let everything further decompose. 

    3. Outdoor pit

    This is my final compost stage, where my compost ends up after months of breaking down. This bin is hot in the center and is filled with worms and rich material. During watermelon season, I can put a single watermelon rind (I cut watermelons in half, scoop out the contents, and compost the two sides) in the center and it will be gone within two weeks. The final stage is what I draw from to nourish my garden.

    Once your compost is ready from stage three, it can be added to raised beds, sprinkled on trees, and mixed into planters. Be careful though – there is too much of a good thing! In case you’re inclined to plant something entirely in compost (won’t it be like extra healthy soil?), know that a plant can suffer when presented with more nutrients than it needs or an unbalanced substrate. 

    How to compost without a composting system

    If you want to keep your food waste out of landfills and support nature but don’t have the space to compost yourself, see if there’s a composting company or organization in your area. Some companies will pick up buckets of food scraps like a trash collector. Local universities or schools may have gardens and welcome donations of compost. I recently got in touch with a university about a compost surplus I have, and I look forward to sharing my compost with them. 

    Here are a couple examples of compost collection organizations:

    Boston area:

    The Woodlands TX area:

    Are you ready to compost?

    In summary, here are key benefits of composting:

    1. Our food scraps feed our plants

    2. We eliminate waste

    3. We keep food out of landfills

    4. We save money on fertilizer 

    Are you ready to turn food into fertilizer? I hope the answer is yes! To get started on your composting, here are the tools I use in my home composting system (disclaimer – I receive compensation for purchases made through my Amazon Storefront, but these are the tools I use everyday):

    Stage 1: Kitchen bin

    Stage 2: Outdoor bin

    Stage 3: Outdoor pit

    Optional step, but beneficial (this can be planted into your raised beds): Worm composter

    Start a Garden: Tips for Beginners

    Can anyone start a garden?

    Starting a garden can feel like an impossible task, especially if you don’t have experience with plants. You might want to grow something but worry you “don’t have a green thumb” or don’t have the right space.

    The good news is that there is no one way to garden. Whether you have 10 acres, a balcony, or a windowsill, you can start a garden that fits your space. There are even people who live in RVs or renovated trucks who have mobile gardens that travel with them! Don’t let your space limit your gardening potential. Read more about small space gardening.

    When it comes to starting your garden, you have to ask yourself: “What is my goal?” Are you starting your garden to become more food sufficient, especially as grocery store prices soar? Are you tired of buying cut herbs in plastic packaging, and want to snip something fresh to flavor your food? Or do you want to connect with life and have more access to nature because you know that plants are good for our well-being?

    Think about what you want to get out of your garden, and don’t worry – it’s okay if you change your mind along the way. Setting this intention helps you prioritize what kind of plants or seeds you will get, what tools you will need, what your time commitment will need to be. Yes, there are limitations like, the size of your space, how much access to light you have, and where in the world you are, but I am confident you will be able to find a way to make it work! And remember – don’t give up if you are not successful the first time around! 

    My Plant Journey

    Would you believe that I got into gardening after killing nine houseplants? They were housewarming gifts I got when I moved into my first house. I put them all over the house and within weeks, over half were gone. I was devastated! But, I decided to do research and learn how to keep the rest alive.

    This led to me to buy as many discount & dying plants as I could, and I did what I could to nurture them back to health. In this process of experimenting and learning, my plants began to grow, and so did I. 

    When I started my indoor garden, it was because a friend gave me some special houseplants. When I started my outdoor garden, it was because I wanted to learn how to take care of plants. 

    People often tell me I have a green thumb, and I like to say that I’ve had a lot of practice! 

    Since those early years, I’ve expanded my garden with all sorts of plants; fragrant herbs, tasty tomatoes, nectarine trees, and more. I didn’t have a plan when I started other than wanting to learn, and I’ve adapted my approach over the years as my goals changed. 

    I encourage you to take a leaf out of my book (and I actually did write a book about it!). Be open minded, be open to learning, and don’t expect to achieve your gardening dreams right away. Focus on learning, having fun, and adjusting as need be. You’ll enjoy the process more.

    These pictures show my garden before I started gardening (2015) and six years after (2021)

    Getting To Work

    Regardless of what kind of garden you’re starting (kitchen garden, healing garden, pollinator garden, etc) I suggest you get a journal to keep record of what you learn. Write down what you notice, when something works, when something fails, and thoughts on what you should do in the future. My plant journal was integral to my self-guided education, and I’m grateful for the knowledge I put onto the pages. 

    Now, pick your plant(s). My recommendation is don’t rush to fill your space if you’re just starting out. I also think that it’s easier to start with live plants instead of seeds. When we get the hang of live plants and build our confidence, we can move onto seeds, but let’s stick with plants for the time being. You can find live plants at nurseries and box stores. 

    Are you planting in the ground, a raised bed, or a planter? What kind of soil do you need? How much light and water do you need? These are questions to ask yourself. If you need help, I suggest talking to the staff at the plant store, as they should be able to point you in the right direction. 

    You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on supplies and tools in order to be a successful gardener. Do you have an old bucket? That can be a planter. I started my garden by repurposing things I had around my house. I suggest getting yourself a watering can because it will help you have control over where the water goes, gardening gloves to protect your hands, and a shovel, but beyond that, I encourage you to use your creativity when you start out. You might be surprised to find how much you can do with what you have! The creative possibilities are endless, and demonstrated in this article.

    In this video, I turned a trash can into a planter:

    My Top Tips:

    There are three things to keep in mind as you go forward: Practice, patience, and persistence. As I shared previously, you might not achieve your plant goals right away, and if you give up, you’ll never reach them. Take notes so you can keep practicing, and as you practice, be sure to apply patience and persistence. Give your plants time to grow and yourself time to learn. Keep trying, and reach out to your community for guidance if you’re stuck. 

    This process of practicing with patience and persistence can be applied to anything in life, and if you use this process, I know you will be successful. 

    Additional Resources

    Are you ready to start your garden? I have some resources for you to check out. 

    1. For seeds, check out Ferry-Morse

    2. I’ve linked products I use in my Amazon Storefront (disclaimer: I do get commission from purchases made through my store, but I have only tagged products that I use and like)

    3. To grow alongside your plant, read my book: “How to Grow: Nurture Your Garden, Nurture Yourself


    Starting a garden is one of the best things a person can do. Caring for plants brings joy, and reminds us of the importance of practice, patience, and persistence. The food we grow enriches our diet, and the herbs we grow bring sweet smells and tastes for us to enjoy. 

    Now that I’ve been gardening for nine years, I can’t imagine myself without plants to tend to. I like to say: I take care of my plants, and they take care of me!