It would be a broad generalization to say any whole category of plants is easy to grow, but herbs probably come closest to being able to make that claim. As a group, the culinary herbs are overwhelmingly in the mint family and have their origins in the Mediterranean. That group includes oregano, sage, basil, rosemary and thyme--plants known for their usefulness and easy maintenance. Along with a few other basic herbs, and some colorful pots, they make an ideal garden project for kids.
Deciding a Theme and Choosing Herbs
Help kids choose a fun herb garden theme, and select herbs to suit. Parenting For Kids suggests a pizza- or spaghetti-themed herb garden, with selections of herbs that go well on those foods, such as basil, parsley, thyme, oregano and so forth; or choose another theme.
Decorate plastic or terra cotta pots to complement the chosen theme. For example, paint pots red, white and green--the colors of the Italian flag--if you make a pizza or spaghetti herb garden.
Choose plants from a nursery or garden center for the difficult-to-grow seeds (lavender, for example); choose dill, basil, fennel, mustard, calendula, nasturtiums or other large seeds to sow directly in pots.
Choose a pot large enough to accommodate annual herbs at their full maturity, and perennial herbs for at least the first season. Consult the plant tag for information about size to determine which pot to use. Most herbs will do fine in an 8- to 10-inch pot. This is a good time to explain to kids that plants, like people, grow bigger over time and outgrow their pots just as people outgrow clothing.
Fill the pot 2/3 full with a good quality potting soil.
Remove the plant from its nursery container carefully to avoid damaging it, and set it in the center of the pot. Scoop out some soil if necessary until the top of the original soil surrounding the plant sits approximately 1 inch below the level of the new pot. Explain to kids how the roots take up water and nutrients to feed the plant, so it is important not to damage them.
Backfill around the plant's root ball with more soil and press gently to seat the plant securely.
Add water to remove air bubbles and help the plant overcome transplant shock.
Keep transplants in a shady spot and well-watered for the first couple of days before moving into a sunny location. They have just been moved to a new home and need time to adjust.
Planting Herb Seeds
Choose a pot as before.
Fill the pot to within 1 inch of the top with quality potting soil; pat gently to firm and smooth the surface.
Make holes in the surface of the soil at the depth and spacing recommended on the seed packet. Have kids stretch out their arms, and tell them plants need room to stretch out their leaves and roots the same way.
Place seeds in the holes and sprinkle more soil lightly over them. Press the soil gently to make good contact with seeds.
Place the pot in a shallow tray of water until the surface is just damp, but not soggy. Keep soil moist until seeds sprout. Soil that is too wet may result in fungal growth that will kill the seeds or emerging seedlings.
Move herbs to a sunny window or outdoor location as soon as seedlings emerge. Explain to kids that plants manufacture their own food by using sunlight to convert soil nutrients to sugars.
About this Author
Deborah Stephenson is a freelance writer and artist, who brings over 25 years of both professional and life experience to her writings. Stephenson features a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. She is an anthropologist & naturalist, and has published a field guide on Michigan's flora & fauna as well as numerous political and environmental articles.