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"I Don't Have a Green Thumb!" - Garden Series

Teach a child to garden, and he will feed himself for the rest of his life.

Gardening with children can be a beautiful, family-enriching activity.  However, there are a few hurdles you may need to overcome to ensure your time together is well-spent and uplifting, instead of frustrating and discouraging.

Over the next few weeks, we'll address some of the challenges of gardening with children and useful tips for overcoming those challenges.

CHALLENGE #1:  Believing you “don’t have a green thumb.”

Did you know even master gardeners have plants unexpectedly die? 

This beautiful Earth we live on is full of complexity and mystery that no person will ever fully understand.  Many have attempted to master it by testing and amending soil and concocting all sorts of pesticides and herbicides, but at the end of the day, there is still SO much to learn and failure simply comes with the territory of growing things.

For example, at the beginning of my adult life, I was working at a local park, and my supervisor asked me to transplant Wahoos (a really neat little plant found in Tennessee). 

To make a long story short, I transplanted about twenty of them, and they all died.  Every. Single. One.

This was one of my first attempts at planting something without assistance or guidance, and it failed miserably.

Although I felt discouraged after that experience, I thankfully didn’t let it stop me from going on to plant thousands more seeds, bushes, and trees, because I have not only become a much more successful gardener, but gardening has actually become one of my favorite activities. 

So don’t let your current failures darken the view of what could be your future success.  Everyone can be a green thumb if they want to be, including you and your family.

That being said, there are a few things you can do to make gardening success more likely, so at the end of the season you will have a harvest you are proud of and one which will make you want to repeat the process the following year.

Here are my Beginner Tips:

1. Start small.

    Don’t plant twenty tomato plants if you have never grown tomatoes before. 

    You will quickly get overwhelmed.  You won’t get them staked quickly enough; the weeds will overtake them; they will grow too fast for you to keep up with and get diseases from being on the ground and growing too close to each other.

    In short, if you haven’t grown a tomato plant before, plant one to four plants when you are starting out.  Do this with other plant varieties as well.  Start small and learn how the plants grow before planting several rows of them.

    2. Be diverse.

      Not everything will grow well where you live.  Each family’s home has different soil, different insects, different access to sunlight, etc.  So as a beginner gardener, plant several of your favorite plant varieties and see what does well naturally.  Your peppers may do terribly, while your sweet potatoes grow to the size of a soccer ball.  When you are beginning, it is nice to see some successes to temper the failures, and you can better ensure this by growing a diversity of plants.

      3. Follow the planting instructions.

        Some plants like lots of sun; some don’t.  Some need a lot of water; some don’t.  Some grow best in the Spring, while others like the hot days of Summer.  If you truly want to be successful, pay attention to these basic details.  However, don’t stress too much at the start.  Yes, there have been countless books written on how to garden successfully, but in the beginning, just focus on the basics.


        In the future, we’ll address some of the special challenges families face when beginning a new garden, so stay tuned for more guidance specifically on gardening with children.

        Until next time, put a few plants in the ground (or in pots) and see how they do!

        And check out our collection of Garden Kits here to get you started on your journey to becoming a green thumb!