Dig In: Creating a Garden with Kids

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Ready to get outside and enjoy spring? Backyard gardening with kids is something the whole family can do together, plus, it can provide delicious food for your table! Springtime vegetables are some of the easiest and most low-maintenance vegetables to grow. You don’t need many supplies at all to get started and you can order what you need and have it delivered straight to your door or order ahead and pick it up. Here are the vegetables you can start growing this time of year and how to get started!

If you want to get a head start on spring gardens, check out any of these local plant nurseries to grab seedlings.

Backyard Gardening: What do you need?

I am not an expert gardener. I am certain there are people out there who know much more and should they stumble upon this story, would have a great deal more to say on the subject. But in my backyard gardening experience you really need just a couple things to be successful, like these:

  • You need a sunny spot. Select the place in your yard that has the most sun. Consider where the shade falls at different times of the day and go for the most spot with the most sun overall.
  • I highly recommend some kind of raised bed. This helps the soil drain and protects it from becoming too saturated, which many plants don’t like. You can build a wooden raised bed out cedar fence pickets, which have some natural rot resistance and are fairly inexpensive or if you just want something smaller, simply use grow bags.
  • If you don’t have a yard, you can use pots and place them in a sunny spot on a deck.
  • You need seeds.
  • You need quality soil. Notice I did not say dirt. The stuff out there that your grass is growing in is probably not going to produce a lot for you.

In short, if you just want to have a small backyard project with the kids, order a few grow bags, a couple of bags of potting soil and some seeds and you’ll be good to go. If you’d like to try something bigger, decide on materials for your raised bed. And if you’re really covering a large space, you can order soil by the truckload. Of course, you can always try tilling up space and putting your garden in the ground, but you’ll still want to mix some soil or compost into your existing dirt to spiff it up a bit.

Getting Seeds

There are a few ways to get seeds, including one where you don’t have to pay for them.

The Greenville Library System’s Seed Library

This is a fantastic option because they are free and they have great seeds. The Seed Library is located at the Berea library branch. All you need to do is go there, show your library card, and pick out 10 seeds. You can get 10 seeds for each library card you have. During the spring, the library does pop-up seed libraries at different branches where you can get 5 seed packets – just follow the library’s social media pages to find out when they do these.

And you can also order the seed packets to be delivered to your local library, all for free. They’ve also got a great Growing Guide to help you figure out what to plant and when to plant it.

Go to a local garden center

If I’m at Home Depot or Lowes, I’ll get seed packets here but they also have them at Ace Hardware and local garden centers. You can also purchase small plants at these places or a local nursery if you need to get a little bit of a head start. If you want your seeds today, Swamp Rabbit Cafe and Grocery carries a variety of seeds.

Order online

There are tons of places to order seeds online. I’ve gotten them from Burpees and Johnny’s Select Seeds, which are all non-GMO. For heirloom and rare seeds, try Seed Savers Exchange. I also love ordering from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. They have a ton of unique varieties of vegetables and they generally germinate really well.

Social Media

There are local Facebook groups that do plant and seed swaps, which is a cool way to get some vegetables, fruit, or other seeds/plants that you may not have had before. Type in something like “upstate gardens” or “upstate seed exchange” to Facebook and see what comes up. Or just ask in local plant groups if anyone has any extra seeds they may be open to parting with. There was a post in a local group here in Greenville asking for loofah seeds and I had some extra so I sent them off to the woman who asked – loofahs for everyone!

Starting Your Garden Indoors

I usually will start my seeds indoors in February or March to get them to little seedlings, which I’ll plant after the first frost. Conventional wisdom dictates this is after Easter or mid-April.

I’ve tried all kinds of seed trays but these from Amazon are my favorites because they are super easy to work with and make nice little greenhouses indoors.

You can also create a makeshift greenhouse outdoors from plastic covering, zip ties, and pipes. I’ve also done this and it worked (mostly). Or you can get indoor growing lights and use them on your seed trays.

After the first frost, they can be planted outdoors.

Easy Vegetables to Grow in the Spring

There are a lot of vegetables out there you can grow, but I’m focusing on the ones that I’ve found to be reliable, low maintenance and pretty easy.

Clemson has a fantastic chart that shows you when to plant what seeds depending on where you live in South Carolina. I’ve bookmarked this and go back to it constantly.

  • Beets: They love loose soil, so make sure your dirt is good and loose. If it packs down, adding organic matter like broken up leaves or a bag of garden perlite can help. Plant them about a half inch down. The worst thing that happens is that the root of your beet is small and you only get greens. They are still tasty, so, you still win.
  • Carrots: Another root vegetable that loves loose soil, carrots in this way are a lot like beets. If your dirt isn’t the best, you’ll probably still get carrots. They’ll just be smaller or misshapen. But a carrot is a carrot and you grew it, so who cares? Note: Don’t bury carrot seeds. Sprinkle them loosened dirt and use your hand to scatter the seeds around. That’s it. Carrots need light to germinate. Water the area and don’t let the dirt dry out until they’ve grown a bit.
  • Greens: Spinach, kale, swiss chard, even lettuce are great spring time vegetables. Kale is by far the easiest thing to grow. Turn your dirt over dig a trench, maybe about a half inch deep and sprinkle the seeds along the trench and cover with the dirt. Water, you’re done.
  • Radishes: Plant radishes just like the beets and greens. They grow quickly. Pick them small and they’ll be tender. Did you know you can roast radishes? They are tasty in a medley of roasted vegetables.
  • Snap peas: Snap peas can handle some frost, but they don’t like hot weather. The success of snap peas here in the Upstate depends on how long and mild our spring is. These guys need a bit of support so a trellis or just some wooden sticks in the ground are helpful here. Kids love to hunt for the snap peas, and the flowers they produce are pretty white and purple. So, it doesn’t really bother me too much if I don’t get many peas.
  • Green beans: I might be a bit early planting green beans because they do not like frost at all. But they are easy to plant and seeds are cheap. So, to my way of thinking, if I need to replant later, who cares? If we don’t get a late frost, I’ll have beans sooner. Works for me. Bean seeds are super easy to grow. To speed germination, soak your bean seeds for 1-2 hours in warm water, then plant. This helps them sprout quickly and not rot in your soil. Plant them about 1/2 inch down, cover with dirt, and be prepared with a trellis or something for them to climb. We built a trellis out of more cedar fence pickets and twine.

Where to Buy Garden Supplies

Grow bags: If you want to try grow bags I know that you can get them on Amazon.

Potting Soil: I’ve ordered potting soil on Amazon. But if you have to buy several bags, it’s probably cheaper to get some at your local hardware store. Most of these stores allow you to make your purchase online and pick up in the store, and some will even deliver it to you, like Southern Mulch. Compost is also a great option for gardens, which you can order locally from Atlas Organics.

Pots: While your local hardware store will have pots, you may be able to find them cheaper at a thrift store. I’ve had good success with putting pots on my deck outdoors, which is the sunniest spot at our house. Tomatoes especially love the sun and they grew really well in pots when I used a metal trellis for them to climb on.

Involving Kids

My kids help me for all aspects of gardening, from picking out the seeds to starting them in seed trays to planting and watering them. It’s been great to get them involved not only to learn about gardening but then to hopefully eat all the veggies they’ve helped to cultivate. Sometimes this works, sometimes not! One of the coolest things is that the kids get to see the fruit (or vegetables) of their work pretty quickly, especially as the seeds start sprouting. It’s fun to watch. Plus, the added benefit of knowing where your food came from is extra cool.

Last piece of advice: Have fun. You’re not trying to start a small farm here. (unless you are I guess). Get out, enjoy the sun. Get some dirt under your fingernails, and maybe in a month or so you’ll have a tasty radish to eat. Happy gardening!

For more spring fun, see our big Ultimate Guide to Spring.

What tips do you have for spring gardeners?

About the Author
Kristina Hernandez is a mom of two girls, freelance writer and photographer. Originally from New Jersey, she is in love with the Upstate and could not imagine raising her kids anywhere else. She enjoys hiking to waterfalls, kayaking, camping, cooking, and exploring all that Greenville has to offer. And she really loves baby goats. Follow her on Instagram at @scadventurer.

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4 years ago

Hello Maria! Thank you so much for sharing an admirable blog. I was looking for something new for my garden and I found your blog yesterday on Google, I got many ideas on how to implement new changes. Keep posting!