I don’t recall ever trying to grow something from scratch – or seed either. Typically, I go to Flowerland and pick up my plants ready to pop in the ground. No fuss, little muss. But last summer the little girl next door was helping me plant my annuals and mentioned how much fun she had when her class at school planted a garden from seed. I thought that might be something fun to do with my daughter as well as a good lesson in science and where things come from.
The first thing you need is a container with good drainage. A smaller pot should do for now; you can repot as the plant gets bigger. (I’m going to try a clear one, so we can watch the roots expand.) Even if you are buying it new, be sure to wash it out and it probably wouldn’t hurt to sterilize it (1 part bleach to 9 parts water, soak for about 5 – 10 minutes, then rinse really well and let the pot dry). Next you want to add a starter soil mix geared for container gardens, like those available at Flowerland. The bonus: they are sterile, ready to go and usually contain a slow-release fertilizer. Then follow the directions on the back of the seed package as far as depth to plant the seed, distance between seeds, how moist to keep the soil, etc.
Although it is not generally recommended, if you want to use garden soil you will want to sterilize it first. To do that, spread the soil on a cookie sheet and bake it for 30 minutes or until the coolest spot reaches 180 degrees. (Be aware: it will stink while baking.) Then add bark, peat, perlite or sand to improve soil structure.
Another idea I came across is from Ambers Garden. They offer ready-to-plant themed gardens. Two that are labeled as “great for containers” are the Asian Garden, which contains snow peas, cucumber and edamame, and the Salsa Garden, which contains tomatoes, chili peppers and cilantro. According to the directions, you need a circular pot that is at least 20 inches in diameter and 8 – 10 inches deep. (You can plant them in the ground, too, if you prefer.) Add at least 4 inches of soil. Roll out the seed mat, which has three seed sections, place it on the soil and cover with ½ to ¾ inch of soil depending on the “garden” you’re growing. Water and thin as indicated in the directions. Important to note: both of these require 6+ hours of full sun.
Either option sounds like a fun – and tasty – experiment. And it will be a great way to introduce my daughter to the joy of gardening.
If herbs or salsa aren’t your thing, a Flowerland friend suggested beans or marigolds. They provide you and your child with quicker results and great roots to look at if you use a clear container.