Growing your own vegetables, herbs, fruits and flowers is a wonderful tool for teaching kids about nature, the 3 R's (reduce, reuse, recycle) and have them enjoying them in no time! Regardless of if you live in an apartment or a single family home square foot gardening can work for you! Best of all it produces tons more food from 80% less space than that required by a traditional row garden.
So, in this pre-spring time how can you get your children involved in growing this year's garden? And how can you grow your own food while in an apartment with only a patio? Here's the answer to both!
First, gather gardening magazines, crayons, or vegetable & flower stickers. Draw a grid on a plain sheet of paper (recycled of course!) A 3x3 garden works best with a child's arm span. Then, with a list of what grows best in your growing zone (information available at http://www.thevegetablegarden.info/) help your child/children "create" the garden. Let them cut out photos or draw pictures to "fill" their box with vegetables, fruits and don't for get the flowers! Use this chance to teach them about plant relationships (i.e. marigolds help with pest control, etc.)
Then, if it's close to your last frost get those seedlings started! Have your little sprouts help you go through the recycling bin for yogurt cups, egg cartons, etc. to begin your seeds in. Use either vermiculite or Mel's mix (1/3 compost, 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite) to get those seeds growing! Let your child sort the seeds on their grid to begin making the connection between seed and full grown vegetable. Involve your child throughout this process letting them label the containers by drawing the veggie (for younger ones) or writing the names on the upcycled seed pots. Help teach responsibility by having your child either assist or on their own water the seedlings...I promise with the first sight of green you'll want your camera handy!
You may be thinking, okay but I have no yard only a patio or balcony. No problem! Square foot gardening takes place on top of existing soil in a traditional yard which means it can take place on top of almost anything! A table, a concrete slab, it doesn't matter! You can even use a gardening box (such as earth box) as long as you have the width for a 1x1 you are golden. And imagine, in one square foot you can grow 16 carrots! Many container gardening pots are this size so you could have lots of mini SFG's on your apartment balcony. And there is nothing more rewarding, healthy, and cost-effective than growing your own food.
So grab your little ones and start drawing/pasting...and get growing! Soon your little sprouts will be lighting up as they see the seeds they planted becoming the veggie they love (or soon will love) to eat.