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Early Spring Gardening with Kids: What to Plant

Your kids have been cooped up inside all winter.

So, they’re a little bit crazy, you’re a little bit crazy and you’re wondering if there’s anything they can do outside right now? Well, there sure is if you want to venture into gardening with your kids. 

This time of year (February-early March), there are quite a few plants that can go into pots and the garden. A lot of your cool-season plants, those that thrive in cooler temperatures, do really well to be planted now.

Things like: bok choy, lettuce, cabbage, spinach, kale, carrots, Swiss chard, kohlrabi, green peas and radish can all be planted from seed.

Generally, the root crops like carrots, kohlrabi and radishes should be seeded directly into the ground/garden – add green peas to that list, too. All the others mentioned can be planted in containers or seed trays inside and allowed to grow big enough to transplant in the garden later. If you have big containers, you can keep the bok choy, lettuce, spinach, kale, Swiss chard, and green peas growing in them. They’re excellent container-grown plants.

Herbs are a good project to grow inside for now and then move outside when it’s a little bit warmer in April. Herbs are usually grown from seeds. Some of the most common ones are basil, oregano, thyme, sage, cilantro, parsley and chives. 

You may see cauliflower and broccoli plants being sold at stores right now. These are good ones to plant in the garden now. Here’s a fair warning, however: they usually don’t like the temperature fluctuations Oklahoma has in the springtime, so don’t feel bad if they don’t do as well as you and your kids had hoped. 

One of my favorites to plant with the kids is potatoes.

There are red potatoes, white potatoes, yellow potatoes and purple potatoes. I opt for purple since they are more dense, which decreases their chance of rotting. Also, who doesn’t love purple? These can easily be planted in a container or in the ground. If planting in a container, be sure to put a couple inches of potting soil in the bottom, place the potatoes on top of the soil, then cover them with a couple more inches of potting soil. As they potato leaves grow through the soil, add more potting soil to cover the leaves. Continue this process until you’ve filled the container with potting soil weeks later. You’ll get to harvest them in June, and it’s like a treasure hunt for the kids. They’ll love it. 

My son harvesting his potatoes in June

My son harvesting his potatoes in June

If you cook a lot with onions, this is a super easy crop to grow in the garden. I usually buy the bundled plants because they’re much less likely to bolt (flower) during temperature fluctuations than the little bulbs. Once an onion flowers, the bulb is no longer good to eat. However, you can still harvest the green leaves and cook with them. 

A Few Tips for a Successful Spring Garden:

  • Use well drained soil when growing vegetables. If growing in a container, this can be potting soil. If growing in the garden, use compost, such as feather meal or mushroom compost. Tilling the soil can also break up the tight spaces and allow for better drainage. 
  • Water only when the soil is about dry. Don’t think you have to water every day or every other day. Just check the soil. 
  • When you water containers, do so until water comes out of the bottom. Yes, containers need to have a drainage hole. 
  • Fertilizer is not usually needed. Don’t spend money on it. 
  • Full sun is a must for vegetables. You’ll get more production. 
  • Let your kids check on their plants as often as they want to. Let them name their plants. Let their curiosity abound. 

 

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