Designing an alphabet garden with a child is a great way to get your gardening fix, while reinforcing ABCs with itty bitty gardeners or teaching older children about planning for edible and decorative landscapes. During the rainy, snowy, cool months, planning an alphabet garden is a fun, not-too-messy art activity. Let the child take the lead in picking plants and designing the garden on paper, while you provide gentle guidance about the plants' growing requirements (sun versus shade, for example.)
First, though, create the alphabet garden inside with the child.
- Seed catalogs (or downloaded photos from seed suppliers, if (like me) you can't bear to part with your catalogs)
- Glue stick
- Markers or crayons
- Paper or poster board (bigger is better!)
C...ColumbineAfter the initial set-up of the paper garden plot, look through seed catalogs for plant photos from A to Z. (When designing an alphabet garden for children, I stick with common names to make gardening more accessible for kids. Not many children will understand Latin.)
Good seed catalogs will give you specific information about the plants' needs, so help your child pay attention to the following:
- Sun requirements
- Size of plants (tall plants may shade smaller plants or large plants may crowd out neighboring plants)
- Water needs
Combining edible plants with ornamentals is a terrific way to teach children about edible gardening. Some plants for an alphabet garden include:
Aster · Beans · Catmint · Daisy · Eggplant · Forget-me-not · Goldenrod · Hollyhock · Ice Plant · Johnny-jump-up · Kale · Lettuce · Milkweed · Nasturtium · Oregano · Peas · Queen Anne's Lace · Rosemary · Snapdragons · Tomato · Umbrella Plant · Violet · Wormwood · Xeranthemum · Yarrow · Zinnia
When the plan is complete and the weather begins to warm, check for your area's last expected frost date for spring planting here. Now, the real fun begins!
Alphabet Garden Supplies:
- 26 different plants or seed varieties, one for each letter of the alphabet
- Prepared garden space
- 26 "ABC" plant markers—stones, wooden letters,
handmade plant labels.
Let the child take the lead in planting, but offer support and gentle guidance, such as reminding kids to handle seedlings carefully, as well as ensuring adequate spacing. Discuss the plants' needs for food and water, as well as sun, to help them grow strong.
Encourage creativity for the garden décor. Smooth stones painted with the letter and name of the plant make good markers. Wooden letters on dowels from craft stores are adorable, but they can be pricey. (I used these for our school alphabet garden.) Old metal spoons hammered flat and inscribed with the letter and plant name are good, durable, recycled options. Additionally, scare crows are fun decorations to add to an alphabet garden, along with rocks painted like ladybugs. A broken terra cotta pot turned upside down turns into a toad home, and natural decorations like pine cones, stones, and sticks can turn into a fairy home in the alphabet garden. Let the kids' creativity run wild!
Most importantly, have fun with the process of growing the plants, picking flowers, harvesting foods, and sharing time with kids in the garden. After all, who will grow our next generation of garden stewards if not us?