Gardening with a Toddler

This is the first spring/summer that I will be attempting to garden with a kid out in the yard with me. Last year, we shut the yard down to survival mode, growing only a massive zucchini plant and doing only the smallest amount of maintenance for the ornamental plants and fruit trees. I didn’t even manage to keep up with the herb garden. Compared to the year before when we had giant sunflowers in the front yard and grew peppers, beans, tomatoes, herbs, lettuce, carrots and radishes in the back, last year was barren. I love the idea of growing food and eating seasonally beyond what is available at farmer’s markets. And let’s face it, more and more farmer’s market crops are trucked a considerable distance to get to the “local” market. Yes, I get that apples from 200 miles away are more local than Chilean grapes, but it still isn’t that local. Ahem.

Saturday morning was perfect for a little gardening. The ground was damp from the rainstorms so weeds pulled out easily. It was cloudy, no wind. Just perfect. Spencer and I were out back playing with bubbles and the soccer ball and he was busy by himself, so I thought it would be a good time to grab a bucket and pull some weeds here and there. He didn’t pay much attention at first, but then became intrigued by what I was doing. Came over by my side and immediately tried to yank a daffodil out of the ground. And it struck me.

I have no idea how to garden with a toddler.

See my foot? It is on a dead bee I noticed as he was rolling around.

Of course it will be an adventure, but how can I be productive and keep him entertained AND not destroy the garden in the process? How do I teach him that roses have thorns? That bees sting? Which plants stay in the ground and which get removed? It must all seem so arbitrary to a toddler.

Danger! Danger!

I need to remember that he is always paring attention. Once. Once! I threw a rotten orange behind that plant pictured above to keep Spencer from playing with it and get it off the grass. This was maybe 2 months ago and Spencer still throws perfectly good fruit back there and I have to go get it. Worst of all is when he wants to go back there and get it and comes close to getting rose to the face. These roses are at least 15 years old, some of the thorns are huge.

So. Safety of the toddler first, sanctity of the plants second. I get that. Spencer pulling out fledgling vegetables will be a tremendous test of my parenting patience. I get that. I did at least have a flash of brilliance that he could “help” by picking up leaves from the grass and putting them in the bucket. It kept him busy and I only had to fight off his urge to dump the bucket every 5 minutes.


I’m sure anyone who is a kid person or babysat a lot or had significantly younger siblings is laughing at me. But I spent most of my adult life actively avoiding the diapered ones. I have no clue how to do any of this or what toddlers are like. At all. This is one huge crazy adventure and learning experience. For both of us.

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8 Responses to “Gardening with a Toddler”

  1. TMae says:

    I’ve been thinking about how this year gardening will be so much easier than it was last year. Last year…we had tomatoes, and lots of them, but only because they basically grow themselves. Anything that required more love, died. I didn’t have time to love plants last year.

    I’m hoping that this year, as O is more self-sufficient, that we’ll have a big garden with lots of stuff. I think I’ll get a sandbox to offer some distraction to him. Because, as your orange story illustrates, he’s clearly going to be paying attention and want to help.

    (Is it wrong that I kind of love your orange story? I can just picture it, and it makes me smile.)


  2. Natalie says:

    Fill an underbed box full of sod, give him a shovel and have him dig beside you.

    I know that it might seem weird, but I would just talk to him and tell him what you are doing, and why you are doing it. While it is going to be way too much information, he may retain some of it. Tell him you pull the “Yucky” weeds that make it hard for the nice veggies to grow, and that you don’t pull the vegetables, because they need time to grow, just like Spencer!

    We planted a spaghetti squash when we first moved in, but we didn’t think they were going to actually make squash, but it did and the girls LOVED watching it grow, and we just reminded them to not pull or touch because it wasn’t ready. When it WAS ready, they did help and had fun.

    Good luck. Not sure if any of that helps, but that’s what seemed to work for us! But, ya know, kids being different and all, your mileage may vary ;oP


  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Amy, Amy. Amy said: {New Post} Gardening with a Toddler #help […]

  4. Holly says:

    I don’t have any helpful advice, but was going to say something around the lines of what the others did – try and find something that will keep him occupied. Or, if you have the space maybe give him his own little plot of garden?

    I don’t know if we’ll try and grow anything this year. We have a concrete courtyard and have done containers in the past but they always get ruined by squirrels and feral cats.


  5. Eileen says:

    I have no clue either but we are trying to grow some flowers. Next year I’ll plan a real vegetable garden. Good luck!

    PS. This comment is from a plane. In the sky. How awesome is that?


  6. You’ve got 2.5 months to figure this out and then share what you learned with me because this is so going to be us come mid-May. Only, last year, I didn’t even weed my garden a single time. It’s going to be ugly and I’m guessing WeeMan isn’t going to make it prettier!


    Amy Reply:

    I LOVE Natalie’s suggestion of giving him his own box of dirt. I am going to try that for sure.


  7. […] you remember that post from months ago when I talked about gardening with a toddler? Well, I wrote it, made big plans in my head and in my usual Amy style, did nothing about them. […]

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