Hi there, I'm not much of a gardener so looking for inspiration. I live in a big city and feel lucky enough to have a small garden. It's partly paved and partly grass - although the grass is a bit patchy because it doesn't see much sun (I think). My kids are 3 and 5 and I'd love for them to do more in the garden. Does anyone have any ideas of where to begin? I don't only mean growing veg and flowers - though any suggestions of what's easy to grow and good for planting now are welcome. TIA
How to make the most of a small garden for kids
What about some containers? That way you can control the soil and water and won't need a lot of digging tools to get started.
If you are in part shade, impatiens are reliable (if uninspired) and kids love the bright colors. Mint, parsley, and chives will all grow in part shade too.
If you want to landscape hostas are great in the shade. Plus they are virtually indestructible. One plant can be divided (early spring is the perfect time) into several by cutting through with a sharp knife. Plant the quarters about 18' apart and you can line a pathway or foundation. Most will become lovely leafy clumps and flower in late summer. they will return every year.
The first thing to do is figure out how much sun you will have in the garden. You could start observing that a few times each day with your kids! My garden has partial shade in winter, and full sun in summer, since the summer sun is directly overhead. So, if your shade is coming from buildings or trees on the south side of your area, you may get sun this summer!
I have a fun little book called "Roots, Shoots, Buckets, and Boots" about kid-friendly garden activities. In it, the author, Sharon Lovejoy, starts with her top 20 plants for kids. These are: pumpkins, sunflowers, gourds, corn, berries, hollyhocks, carrots, mimosa, poppies, tomatoes, trees, alliums, potatoes, lamb's ear, four-o'clocks, evening primroses, radishes, nasturtium, moon plant, and lemon verbena.
In our garden, my kids' favorite has been peas. The whole plant is edible, so they eat the little pea shoots in the beginning, then the actual peas later. (You sow pea seeds thickly below a trellis, then they climb straight up.) They also LOVE sungold tomatoes. One plant will grow 5' tall and yield hundreds of delicious orange-yellow small tomatoes. Both of these plants are easy to grow! For a beginner, I'd buy pea seeds and look for a sungold plant to transplant at the farmer's market or similar. Another thing you could plant now in a container would be any sprouting potato (preferably organic from your co-op). I also like mint, because you can add it to tea and lemonade, and it smells awesome when touched. Here, it's a little invasive, so I plant it in it's own spot (encircled by gravel), or in a container.
I think if the spot is beautiful and has something edible in it, your kids will find a way to be interested! Good luck!
Water features such as a shallow channel of water pumped from one end to the other to send boats down, places to hide in like teepees, swing or slide, balance beam, room to run around, things to climb, fruiting annuals they can pick (snow peas (plant those now), cherry tomatoes, green beans, ground cherries), flowers they can pick, berries, carrots (plant those now too), their own somewhat sunny garden plot and some seeds of their choice to go wild with.