By Erin Vaughan
What’s a surefire way to get kids to eat their vegetables? Heap their plates with homegrown bounty plucked right from the backyard. Gardening as a family gives children an appreciation for the work behind the food on the table, an understanding of basic ecology, and a chance to help parents outside. Meanwhile, for us adults, backyard beautification boosts property values and brings buyers for those of us thinking about selling.
But, as parents are already well aware, kids don’t exactly warm to activities requiring them to stand idly by while an adult does most of the work. Complex projects that demand sawing, drilling and hauling can be boring for budding gardeners who want nothing more than to get their hands dirty. The projects below are simple and fun so that they hold little ones’ interest and give them the satisfaction of building a well-placed garden bed, while you reap the benefits on your valuation.
The Basics of Garden Beds
Technically, a bed can be anywhere you’d like: surrounding the perimeter of your house or tucked into an upcycled dresser drawer. Most modern gardeners opt for raised beds—where compost and soil is surrounded by a boundary wall made from a variety of different materials. This eliminates the need for tilling and turning soil, a tiring and toilsome task.
Raised beds also score points for good drainage, a necessity for healthy plant growth. Since paths are separated from the growing area, the soil is less likely to become compacted, so plants are healthy and vibrant—and boost your curbside appeal, instead of dragging it down.
When planning your bed, take into consideration the types of plants you’d like to grow—large edibles like squashes and pumpkins won’t fare well jammed into tight spaces. That being said, a lot can be grown in a few inches, especially if you fill your beds with nutrient-rich garden soil. If you’re smart with your placement and planning here, it can really pay off, while a drooping, dry bed can undermine your landscaping efforts.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of bed-building, it’s time for some inspiration. Here are a few fun and quirky projects that will pique the interest of even the most apathetic child.
- Stack Cinder Blocks: A very industrial approach to backyard ecology, stacked cinder blocks allow you to create a relatively fortified garden bed in a short amount of time. The gaps in the centers of the blocks also provide an extra spot for makeshift container gardening—the perfect spot for a frothy groundcover like sweet alyssum, or DIY strawberry pots. If you’d like to remove your garden at the end of the growing season, line the bottom of the bed with landscaping fabric before laying your blocks.
- Build a Raised Pallet Bed: Perhaps one of the simplest beds you could ask for, an industrial pallet makes an easy, small bed for plants with shallow root systems. Again, line the bottom the with landscaping fabric and staple it to the wood to keep the soil in place. Fill the interior with soil and you have a planned bed for companion planting. I’ve also seen these turned on their sides to make a hip vertical bed. Usually you can find pallets at small hardware stores and garden centers, who will gladly hand over a few extras.
- Use Recycled Tires: Consider it upcycled container gardening at its finest. With no stone to haul or boards to drill, this project is the ultimate no-sweat bed for the little one short on attention (or the family short on time). Spray-painted in fun, kid-friendly colors, these add an eclectic and environmental touch to your landscaping. If you’re wondering where to get used tires, many retailers will be happy to part with a few cast-offs if you ask.
- Edge with Painted Stones: One way to capture a child’s interest is to allow them to put their own unique stamp on the project. Stone borders allow gardens to fit neatly into even the tiniest, oddball spaces—but this project lets your little one embrace their own inner Picasso as well. Give them some weather-resistant acrylic paint and you’ll have great landscaping and a family keepsake that can endure throughout the years.
Erin Vaughan is a blogger, gardener and aspiring homeowner. She currently resides in Austin, Texas where she writes full time for Modernize.com, with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big home projects with confidence.
Photos courtesy of Modernize