Gardening is a fantastic activity for supporting your child’s continuing development (see our article on gardening for kids here). And the great thing is that even if you don't have a garden or a balcony, you and your kids can still gain all of the benefits of gardening by doing it at home – you can find great inspiration online, like this fun Pinterest board.
Below, we’ve put together some guidelines for creating a beginner indoor garden for kids, but before you get stuck in, remember that things will probably get messy, so be sure to cover preparation surfaces with newspaper and check out our stain removal tips if any dirt gets on your clothes!
Indoor Gardening for Kids
There are many ways to grow plants inside – in fact indoor gardening is a skill in itself. Some indoor gardening techniques can actually be quite complicated, but parents know it’s always keep things simple when children are involved. Low-maintenance container gardens and terrariums (self-sustaining gardens in closed containers) are best for beginners.
You could try out our ultimate ‘no maintenance’ mini garden tutorial, in our international crafts for kids section here. If you don’t have a local garden centre or nursery nearby, you could try purchasing seeds, bulbs, plants and equipment online as well – some websites even offer useful inspirational tips! Indoor gardens can be just as ‘productive’ as outdoor versions – certain types of flowers, herbs and fruit and vegetables do very well inside – but the same general gardening rules apply to outdoor planting: make sure you choose plants that are appropriate for the environment in terms of light and temperature; and water and feed your plants regularly.
Planning your Indoor Garden
Before you set about creating your garden, be sure to spend some time planning:
- What type of garden do you want to create? Think about whether you want to grow flowers, food, or general greenery and how much time you and your children are willing to dedicate to the plants that you grow.
- Where do you want your indoor garden to be? Remember, even if you choose plants more adapted to shade, they will still need sun to grow and thrive.
- What type of plants are you going to grow? Children love planting seeds, but don’t have a lot of patience when it comes to waiting for plants to grow. Regardless of the type of garden you’re creating, make sure it’ll produce results fairly quickly and choose plants that are hardy – they need to be able to handle over or under-watering and possible neglect!
- What are you going to grow your plants in? Hanging plant pots are a good solution for limited space; as are terrariums – a whole garden can fit in a single glass container (try airtight storage jars). Regular pots are great, but don’t be afraid to be inventive with your planting: recycled water bottles work well too!
‘House Plants’ and Indoor Herb Gardens
Many of the plants that are traditionally labeled ‘house plants’ prefer a warmer climate. Examples of these are: ferns, palms, succulents, and cacti. Since these plants thrive in the heat, they are often very good at retaining water, and do not need much maintenance as a result. Mini versions of all these types of plants are good for terrariums as glass increases the temperature inside the container, and if it is closed the air will stay moist. ‘House plants’, however, aren’t very exciting for children to look after.
It’s much more fun to grow fast-developing flowers like pansies or nasturtiums; or tasty herbs like coriander and parsley from seed. Kids tend to be a lot more receptive to eating fresh herbs if they’ve played a part in helping them grow! The same goes for vegetables and fruit too – tomatoes, peppers, radishes and strawberries all do well indoors.
Growing Bulbs in Water
Did you know you can also do home gardening without soil ever entering your house? A lot of plants – think carrot or pineapple tops – will start, or continue to grow if they are placed directly in water. One fascinating example for kids is hyacinth bulbs. Put one of these in a glass, suspended above water and leave it in a dark place to grow roots. When the roots have grown, bring the glass out into the sunlight and watch the plant emerge from the top of the bulb and grow into a beautiful flower.
Indoor Gardening Tips for Beginners
- Don’t bother buying gardening tools. Since indoor plant pots are fairly small, a simple serving spoon and kitchen scissors will be enough for digging and pruning.
- Stagger your growing process. It’s much better if plants reach maturity one after another, rather than all at once – this way you’ll have greenery all year round.
- Choose only one or two types of plant to grow from seed. Growing new plants can be quite tricky, so keep the number of seedlings manageable.
- Establish a good watering routine. Watering is something that kids love to do at first, but they soon bore if it becomes a daily chore. A great way to make the process more interesting and consistent is to buy water ‘diffusers’. These can be screwed onto the neck of plastic water bottles and stuck in the ground next to a plant to release water into the soil over time – depending on the size of the bottle these can be refilled once a week, or even once a month.
- Remember much of indoor gardening is experimental. Don’t be disappointed if some plants fail to thrive, there will be others that do very well. Working out what suits your indoor environment isn’t always that easy and make take some time.
Do you enjoy gardening for kids? What plants grow best in your home? Let us know in the comments box below.