Many health and wellness experts recommend gardening. This terrific outdoor activity comes with many benefits for everyone in the family. If you want to introduce your children to the joys of gardening but don’t want to take on more than you can handle, use our guide. You’ll learn what you can put in your backyard garden that’s easy to grow, even for toddlers. Here are a few tips and tricks to get your family outside in a low-maintenance garden.

Start Small, Benefit More

According to Texas Health and Human Services, gardening is good for kids. Children use their growing bodies to practice locomotor skills while carrying watering cans and digging in the dirt. They’ll engage their sense of sight to spot ripe berries and exercise fine motor skills to pick them and pop them in their mouth. The taste takes over as your little ones experience an explosion of flavor that’s so yummy, it just might help your child develop a lifelong habit of healthy eating.

Armed with this inspiration, you might want to dive into a garden headfirst. Hold your hoe! One of the first mistakes in backyard gardening is going too big. You’re busy, and so are the kids. It’s okay to start small. You’ll still enjoy the benefits without the stress of seeing your plants wither from neglect.

The Texas WIC Let’s Grow program offers some fun tutorials and activities that get children and parents growing plants without having to till the whole year. Load up YouTube with the kids and watch Zobey and friends discover where fruits and veggies come from, how they grow, and why they’re good for little bodies. Grow a Mystery Seed garden or learn how to grow a beanstalk from a dried pinto or black bean. The information and instructions are right there online to access any time it’s convenient for your family.

Consider Fuss-Free Herbs

Image via Flickr by shixart1985 Licensed CC BY 2.0

Tons of bold flavors come from freshly harvested foods, like herbs, and they’re so easy to grow. If you have a budding chef in the family, imagine picking fresh basil from the garden to sprinkle on your fresh caprese salad this summer.

Herbs don’t require a lot of space either, and you can start with seeds or pick up starter plants from your local nursery. Place your pots on a sunny windowsill in the kitchen or a shady corner of your patio, depending on the season. Texas is hot, so you want to ensure your herbs aren’t getting too much sun. Here are four fuss-free herbs that are great for your first garden:

  1. Cilantro: This popular, quick-growing herb needs lots of sun. Use its leaves to flavor Tex-Mex favorites, like guacamole, tacos, and salsa.
  2. Mint: Mint comes in various flavors, from spearmint to peppermint. Add shredded leaves to iced tea, a fruit smoothie, or your weekend mojito. They spread quickly though, so keep them contained in a pot.
  3. Basil: Basil is another sun-loving plant that enjoys a bright window. Chefs use it in dishes like spaghetti, pizza, and even desserts.
  4. Chives: If your family likes the flavor of onions, you’ll love chives. They add taste to soups, casseroles, and baked potatoes, and kids love using safety scissors to snip off the ends.

Plant a Few Pretty Perennials

The Woodlands is in growing hardiness zone 9a, which means that average low temperatures run around 25 degrees. While frost dates vary by a week or two, The Woodlands farmers can expect to be frost free from March 1 through Dec. 15. That means that families like you can plant loads of flowers. Try these varieties and spend more time watching them grow than on watering duty:

  1. Geranium:These hardy flowers are one of the longest bloomers in the garden. Plant them in hanging baskets or ceramic pots with good drainage. They’re also a tough, reliable plant that’s willing to live in an assortment of soils.
  2. Purple coneflower: Coneflowers are a stunning addition to your garden, and they attract pollinators like bees and butterflies. Their large blooms can reach up to 6 inches across, and they look beautiful in a vase on your table. These plants are drought resistant and need little rainfall.
  3. Columbine: The Columbine is Colorado’s state flower because of its astonishing beauty. These easy-to-grow blossoms add interest to your garden over the summer, and its attractive foliage turns maroon in fall. Texas gardeners will put them in partial shade and add mulch to retain moisture.
  4. Tropical passion flowers: There are 400-plus species of tropical passion flowers. Their vibrant colors and heady fragrance make them a popular choice, and our climate is perfect for the plants to overwinter.

Summer Vegetables for Zone 9a

The Woodlands is a prime spot for planting easy-care summer vegetables. Believe it or not, some varieties thrive in Texas’ sweltering hot summers, and our zone allows for gardening almost year-round, depending on how sunny the winter months are. Choose plants that are heat and drought tolerant, like these options:

  1. Peppers: Almost every type of pepper, sweet and hot, enjoy our long sunny days. Try bell peppers like Carolina Wonder and Charleston Belle for starters or a spicy option like Aji Dulce.
  2. Sweet potatoes: When it gets too hot for other crops, sweet potatoes step in. Keep seedlings moist until well established, then plan to harvest them in 90 days.
  3. Tomatoes and tomatillos: A few heirloom tomatoes can tolerate Texas temperatures, like Flamme, Mr. Stripey, and Garden Peach. Green tomatillos are another local favorite, plus they’re easy to grow like their red cousin.
  4. Green beans: Beans are prolific producers. Pole varieties grow on teepees and provide shade for neighboring plants, or for a fast yield, grow your bush beans in large pots.

There you go! Crème de la Crème of The Woodlands shared these low-maintenance gardening tips with your family. Did you like our ideas? What does your family enjoy growing in your backyard? Let us know so that we can share your ideas with other Texas parents. Drop us a line right now.