Gardening with Kids

Wayne Hobbs
Posted 4/26/17

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – From my experiences interacting with people throughout the county, gardening and horticulture is an extremely popular hobby. From the UF/IFAS Master Gardeners to garden clubs …

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Gardening with Kids


GREEN COVE SPRINGS – From my experiences interacting with people throughout the county, gardening and horticulture is an extremely popular hobby. From the UF/IFAS Master Gardeners to garden clubs to just the person passionate about their roses, almost everyone gets their hands dirty in their lawn and landscape. However, there is one group often overlooked who can benefit a lot from time in the garden – kids.

As a child, some of my fondest memories were helping my mom-mom in her garden, weeding and fertilizing the pole beans or picking hundreds of Colorado potato beetles off of the sweet potatoes. These experiences instilled in me a love of plants and nature and the conversations we had were irreplaceable teaching moments. Gardening with kids can help increase their knowledge of plants and the natural world, give them pride in their work, allow them to exercise, and allows them a wealth of opportunities to use their creativity and imagination.

When working with youth, there are some great ways to get them involved with horticulture. First of all, if a garden or landscape is not a possibility, visit local botanical gardens, parks, or natural areas to take walks and learn about the plants there. Many of these locations may also offer classes and activities for kids. Some of my personal favorite locations include Camp Chowenwaw, Gold Head State Park, and if you’re willing to take a bit of a drive, the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville.

Our UF/IFAS Extension Clay County Extension service also offers 4-H Club, which can be a great way to get a kid involved with plants, agriculture, STEM, or many other topics and there are even summer day camps available. If interested, call or email our office or visit to see a listing of camps and activities.

If you do have the space for a garden or landscape, you have many options but there are some tips that could make things more successful. First of all, engagement with the child is key. Let them help in the planning, planting, and maintenance of the area as much as possible. They may make some mistakes but they are just opportunities to learn. Also, make sure to choose plants and practices that will allow for success. Make sure what you plant can thrive in our area and you maintain the garden or landscape properly. If you need help in decisions, do not hesitate to contact us at the UF/IFAS Extension office.

Some keys in plant selection for a children’s garden would be plants that grow fast with simple maintenance. Also, some plants can be very dynamic and eye-catching. Anything with showy flowers, has edible parts, or out of the ordinary, such as multicolored carrots, can be excellent. However, make sure to teach the kids that they should not eat any part of the plant without permission and stay away from species that are poisonous such as oleander and angel’s trumpet.

Pest management should also be considered with a children’s garden but if you try to emphasize hand pulling of weeds and killing of insects and follow the instructions found on the label of chemicals you utilize, you should be fine.

Finally, as you work with the child, talk with them about what they are doing and why, as well as their day and interests. These conversations are a powerful educational tool that will stick with the kid for a lifetime.

If you have any questions about the Master Gardener program, landscape and garden topics, or need plant or pest materials identified, contact the University of Florida/IFAS Extension Office online at, follow us on Facebook, or call by phone at (904) 284-6355.


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