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Laughlin: Simple garden fun for children

Zinnias are a good choice for a children's garden. [Metro Creative Connection]
Zinnias are a good choice for a children's garden. [Metro Creative Connection]

I often share this story about how I became a gardener at 5 years old. My mom gave me several colorful packages of zinnia seeds and my very own garden at the edge of one of her many flower beds.

She helped me plant the seeds and water them in. It seemed to me that I went to bed that night, woke up, and the zinnias were almost as tall as me and starting to flower in beautiful, bright colors. Of course, it did not happen over night, but it seemed that way in my mind. This was truly one of my first memories, and it was magic, and I was in love. This love of nature and gardening has never left me.

If you want to teach the kids in your life about nature, gardening is fun and rewarding way to do that. Find a good spot in your own outdoor beds or gardens they can use or maybe even let them do some container gardening.

Flowering plants can add color and interest to the child’s garden. It is so convenient to buy bedding plants ready to go from the garden centers, but many flowers are easy to grow from seeds. If you are new to growing plants from seed, you also will be surprised how much you will enjoy watching them develop and grow. Just follow the directions on the seed packet, being sure to keep the soil moist to ensure germination.

Zinnias and cosmos will attract pollinators and are almost fail-proof from seed, even in midsummer, if you keep them wet while germinating. Larkspur is another favorite and blooms in pretty shades. Morning glories are quick to germinate and grow so fast you can see the growth change from day to evening!

All of these are easy to grow from inexpensive packets of seeds, which you can find almost anywhere you shop. Some of these can reseed in your garden next year, so keep that in mind, but you also can let them reseed if you choose.

Sunflowers are another great choice to plant from seed. Some varieties grow extremely tall, like the “Mammoth” or “Gigantus’ varieties, which reach heights of 6 to 12 feet and have a single large head. Others have been developed for their smaller, branched attractive yellow, red or white flower heads.

Nasturtiums are a favorite edible flower (they have a peppery “radish” flavor), and they are easy to grow from seed in the garden or in a container. What fun, to grow a pretty flower and then add it to your salad!

Summer vegetables that are fun and easy to grow from seed include bush beans or pole beans (climbing), which can be planted to grow on a trellis or tepee. Watermelon, squash and pumpkin take a lot of room but pop up quick from seed.

Of course, you can teach kids to garden with transplants, so planting petunias, tomatoes or other transplants right now in the garden or in a container is a great garden activity for kids. Try growing some herbs like basil and oregano, then use them to make pizza sauce. They will treasure the memory!

So, enjoy seed planting and other kinds of gardening with the kids in your life, or just the kid inside of you!

Email Julia Laughlin, Oklahoma County Extension horticulture educator, at .

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