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Garden Design


You can play it straight, with a kids' garden, and build rectangular raised beds or prepare a big, traditional garden square. There is nothing wrong with that! It's efficient, tried-and-true, and easy to maintain.


Or you can let the kids' imaginations run wild and design a garden that looks like it belongs in the cartoons.


The point is, if you're making a kids-only garden, let the kids hold the reins of the design. And why not make it fun? Why not let the kids design the shapes and sizes of the garden? They very likely would be more creative and make a more interesting garden than any adult ever could.


Go out to the space you are going to have for the garden, whether it is in your back yard, the school grounds, a park or wherever. Do your site preparation so that you have a pretty good idea of what garden designs will, and will not, work.


Remind the kids that the garden is going to represent their style, the plants and colors they like to look at and eat, and the logical plant selections for the conditions in that garden space, the climate in your area, and so forth.


Ask them to brainstorm the purpose of the garden, what focal point they would like, what theme, and how they can imagine the garden producing what it is they want - whether it's food, flowers, fun, or all three.


Maybe they want to grow food crops that they can cook with, or can, at harvest time. For that, you don't need anything fancier than some wide rows in a rectangle or square.


Maybe they want to grow a butterfly garden that looks like a prairie. If so, there wouldn't be any square corners or rows - the prairie isn't that organized! Flowing oval shapes are better for borders that are supposed to look like the garden just naturally sprang up.


Maybe they want a beautiful, romantic, hideaway spot, like the secret garden in the famous book by that name, with an entry hidden by vines, and benches or a great, big tree.


Maybe they want to make a teepee out of tall bean poles inside which they can hide.


Maybe they want a pumpkin patch, or to just grow as much lavender as they can.


Maybe they don't want to grow food crops at all, but just want to make a "pond" out of a half-barrel, lined with plastic and laid into the ground, as a home for floating water plants, goldfish, and a "treasure chest" on a chain that they can drop in and pull out of the water.


For younger children, a garden plan that is not too overwhelming consists of a series of one-foot garden squares connected by a path. Each square could have something different planted in it. The connecting path could be made of bark mulch, wet newspaper covered with straw, or boards.


Kids really love circular gardens, too. Lay out garden hose or rope to form a circle, and check it with measuring tape. You can slice a circle garden into four, six or eight sections using paths like a "Duck, Duck Goose" design.


Another fun idea is to make a maze or labyrinth using flowering bulbs, followed by annuals, with a path that leads to occasional dead ends and so forth.


In designing paths, make them at least two feet wide so that people strolling through won't feel too cramped, and you'll have room to get on your hands and knees if you have to weed or so forth.


Once you have your basic shape, sketch it out on graph paper with one square equaling one foot. First add paths, and next draw any permanent structures you'd like to include. Examples: a compost bin, an overhead arbor for climbing roses, and so forth. Add the plants last.


Be sure to locate it so that you have a nice view from any nearby homes or the school building. In other words, don't put corn plants in front, blocking the view of the smaller plants behind.


Take care to note any power lines, pipes, septic systems, or other existing limitations to be aware of. Don't make the garden so close to a street that the kids might get hit by a car or bike as they work. But place it fairly close to the street, both for safety and convenience when you are off-loading heavy bags of compost and so forth.


It's a great idea to plan ahead for a gathering spot for your garden club, so that everyone can sit in the shade and do some of the activities on this website, read books, or whatever. So if you can afford it, a garden bench or two, or some boulders to sit on, are nice additions.


By Susan Darst Williams www.KidsGardenClub.org Planning 07 2010


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