The Q&A Archives: First Garden

Question: My son 8 years old wants to plant some flowers in the yard what do I need to buy? what plants are good for summer? I never did this before should I buy plants in vases and replant them or plant them in the soil? Your help is appreciated!!

Answer: You will want to purchase bedding plants in a garden center or nursery. They are usually sold in 6-pak's of annual flowering plants. Or you can purchase single plants in 4" pots. Most of these are perennial plants so they will come back year after year. First decide where you are going to plant them. If the site is sunny, choose sun loving plants such as petunias, sunflowers, geraniums, etc. (the plant tag will tell you whether plants like sun or shade). If the site is shady, choose impatiens, lobelia, etc. To make sure your plants get off to a good start, dig the soil well to make it loose and add some compost if the soil has never been planted in before. In addition to planting flowers, you might encouage your son to grow a few vegetables along with the flowers. Although there are many crops suitable for the young gardener, here are our top picks, which are relatively easy to grow, have short growing seasons and are fun to harvest.

Sunflowers: Plant just one or two seeds, since they take a lot of room. Sunflowers will sprout in 1 week, become a small seedling in 2 weeks, and should be 2' tall in a month. In 8 weeks, the buds will flower revealing hundreds of seed kernels. Be sure to gorw 'confectionery' sunflowers, the type grown for food. They will dry naturally in the late summer sun; the seeds, rich in protein and iron, can be roasted for snacks. Save a few for next summers' planting.

Or, grow lettuce, a quick and reliable crop. Lettuce likes part shade; keep soil moist especially during the first two weeks. The seeds will germinate in 7-10 days; growing season is 40-50 days. You can grow 'head' (space 8" apart) or 'leaf' (space 4" apart) varieties; the leaf varieties will mature sooner, about 30-35 days.

Radishes germinate in 3-10 days, and have a very short growing season of 20-30 days. They can be planted closely, 4-6" apart. Plant in cool weather for a mild radish, or hot weather for a hotter radish.

Best wishes with your new garden!

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