Simple Ways to Add Gardening Fun to Your Homeschool
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Simple Ways to Add Gardening Fun to Your Homeschool

Simple Ways to Add Gardening Fun to Your Homeschool

Gardening can be a fun and engaging educational activity to add to your homeschool. Gardening can bring to mind hard work, large overgrown garden plots, weeds and insects! But it doesn’t have to be complicated! Here are some ways to add gardening to your homeschool and benefit from this excellent learning opportunity. We will share some ideas for new and experienced gardeners.

children's hands planting seedlings in dirt

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For New Gardeners

First we will talk about new gardeners and ways to get started.

Starting a Garden

I highly recommend starting small when starting a garden. For most people this means take all your ideas and cut it in half…then cut that in half again and start there! I think we can often be too ambitious when starting something new. Then we get easily overwhelmed, feel like we failed, and decide its not for us after all. Does this sound familiar? 

Square Foot Gardening for an Easier Gardening Experience

A photo of a new square foot garden.
A brand new Square Foot Garden

I think that the easiest way to start a garden is to use the Square Foot Gardening Method. Square foot gardening keeps things simple and yields great results. It can also be used in a variety of situations like backyards and balconies! You don’t have to worry about the dirt that exists in your yard because you are adding your own to raised beds.

Above is a photo of the start of my first square foot garden, before it was planted. I wanted to do a huge garden and do everything, but I made myself start small. It was so much fun! Square foot gardening can be used with vegetables or flowers.

Recently we re-did our wood on the square foot gardens in our yard, and this time we used “seconds” of 2×4’s which were much cheaper now days than the boards I used in this original photo. Its important to use untreated wood for vegetable gardening, however, after 8 years ours needed replacing. Friends used metal and won’t have to replace it although that had a larger up front cost. Anything can be used as long as it is not leaching potential toxins into the soil.  

Some resources you could add to starting a square-foot garden include:

Homeschool Scientist Square Foot Gardening article and how-to.
-Square Foot Gardening With Kids by Mel Bartholomew
Campfire Curriculum Unit Study: With the Skills of A Gardener.

A photo of the cover of the book Square Foot Gardening with Kids.

Gardening with Emma: Grow and Have Fun: A Kid-to-Kid Guide by Emma Biggs is also a great resource for kids about gardening, although not square-foot garden specific. What is extra-special about this book is that it was written by a kid!

A photo of the cover of the book Gardening with Emma.

Download our FREE printable for your kids to plan their own square foot garden!

To Start Seedlings or Not

If you are starting gardening, perhaps now is not the time to start your own seedlings for the things that require starting ahead of time. Go ahead and buy some plants already started. Often people have them for sale during the spring on Facebook Marketplace, or you could visit a farm or garden center.

Tips on Garden Zones and Plant Needs

Some plants are also harder to grow than others, especially depending on your climate. If you live in Southern Ontario, for example, you are likely to have great experience with heat-loving crops like cucumbers or tomatoes. Some flowers will not grow in some garden zones. But if you live in Northern Alberta, you might do better with cool-loving crops like swiss chard and lettuce. Beans (bush and pole) are typically easy to grow wherever you live and can be direct-sown (planted directly in the garden) rather than started ahead of time inside. Check your garden zone and figure out what grows best in your area! Also check to see if the plant requires full sun or some shade (check on the seed package, plant label, or ask who you bought it from). The Government of Canada has a Plant Hardiness Zones Map for you to look up your garden zone.

What Types of Flowers to Plant 

A photo of the flowers black-eyed Susans.

Flowers come in two types- the first type are called annuals, which flower all season and then die when frost comes. The second type are called perennials, which flower for a specified time once a season (some flower longer than others) then go dormant over the winter, and come back again in the spring. Perennials require splitting (using a shovel to take part of the plant away to reduce it’s size- you can plant the part you removed elsewhere or give it away). If you don’t split them every few years they will grow very large. Often people will give away perennials that they have split and that can be an excellent way to start a garden. Annuals are easy to buy at the store and just plant in the ground and have colour all season.

Be sure to check what conditions the flowers require (full sun, part shade, full shade). For a beginner I recommend sticking to flowers that are the easiest to grow. We have had lots of success with black-eyed susans (rudebekia- a perennial), sunflowers, and cosmos (annuals). Ask other gardeners in your area what does best for them! It really varies with the climate you live in. 

Take Your Time and Learn

As I mentioned, start small if you are starting a garden. Take your time and learn from the experience. Its okay and completely normal to make mistakes and learn from them! The public library can be a great place to learn more about gardening through books or sometimes gardening workshops. Join a local horticultural group. Ask questions to neighbours and friends in your area. There are some great videos on You Tube to help you learn more. Gardening is a great learning experience, but don’t be discouraged when things go wrong. A garden is a living thing and there will be problems. Use them as learning opportunities! 

For New and Experienced Gardeners

Both new and experienced gardeners can take advantage of the many learning opportunities that a garden presents- you just have to be open and willing to follow the “rabbit trails” that happen when you garden! 

Taking Advantage of the Learning Opportunities

There are so many things to learn about with gardening. Some examples include:

Soil Study

Learn about soil and what’s in it. (This book is an excellent picture book to introduce this topic!) Social Science Society of America has a neat resource page and diagram showing the soil layers.

A photo of the cover of the book  Up in the Garden Down in the Dirt.

Study Insects and Animals

-You could study the different types of insects and animals that visit your garden. Catch some ants and make an ant farm to study for a bit then release them back to your garden! Identify the bird that visits and learn more about its call, its habitat, what it eats and more. (Cornell Lab of Ornithology website is a great site for learning more). Watch for toads in damp areas or make a toad house. Turn over some rocks and see what is under there and study what you find. Figure out what is eating the leaves in your garden and why. Chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits and groundhogs are all common mammal visitors to the garden, and we have a whole post about engaging ways to study Canadian mammals! 

An image to promote our other post Engaging Ways to Learn About Canadian Mammals.

Attract and Study Pollinators

Another idea is to grow specific plants that are good for attracting pollinators. Then you could study which pollinators come to your yard and why they are important. has some excellent information on this topic.

You could even grow something that attracts butterflies to lay eggs and see if you can get any caterpillars (if you don’t mind sharing your plant!) Parsley often attracts butterflies. Or decide to grow some milkweed to help the Monarch population and learn more about this fascinating butterfly. For more information, National Geographic has an excellent resource to learn about Monarchs. Journey North for Kids also has some excellent Lesson Plans and more information. Monarch Butterflies: Explore the Life Journey of One of the Winged Wonders of the World by Anne Hobbie is an beautiful and engaging picture book all about these fascinating insects.

A photo of the book cover Monarch Butterflies by Ann Hobbie.

Study the Plant Life Cycle

-Letting a plant go to seed and watching the full life cycle is an excellent way to study about life cycles. Learn about seed saving and try to plant some seeds you saved the next year! Many libraries have a seed library- check yours and ask if there is one near you. Two great books for studying about seeds are A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Aston and National Geographic Readers: From Seed to Plant by Kristin Baird Rattini. 

A photo of the book cover Seed to Plant.

Learn About Native Plants

Learn about native plants and why they are important and invasive plants and why they are to be avoided. HGTV has an article about 17 Beautiful Native Canadian Plants to Grow by Province.

There are more opportunities to add learning to your life through gardening than I have space for writing about here. Keep your eyes open and be willing to research online or at the library about whatever topic you come across!  

Some Fun Crafts, Activities and Worksheets

There are many fun gardening crafts, activities and worksheets out there. Here are a few ideas.

Gardening Lab for Kids: 52 Fun Experiments to Learn, Grow, Harvest, Make, Play, and Enjoy Your Garden by Renatta Brown and Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together with Children are both excellent resources for all sorts of fun gardening activities.

A photo of the book cover Gardening Lab for Kids.
A photo of the book cover Roots Shoots Buckets and Boots.

A few websites for more ideas:

Ideas for Experienced Gardeners

If you already have lots of gardening experience you may be wondering how to add more fun and engaging learning ideas to your garden. Here we have some ideas to take things up a notch! 

Trying New Plants

It can be fun to try new things or decide to try growing something that might take extra care to grow in your climate. Perhaps you want to try shade cloth to grow lettuce all summer in your hot climate. Or perhaps you want to build a cold frame to stretch your season if you live in a cooler climate. Maybe you want to try to grow something you haven’t grown before. It can be an excellent learning opportunity to do things like this in your homeschool. Think of all the learning that would go into researching what to grow and why, what it needs, perhaps building hoops or a cold frame, and learning how to best care for the plant. Perhaps it will be attacked by insects which would require more research into how best to deal with that. 

Attract Beneficial Creatures to Your Garden 

Some educational ideas for attracting beneficial creatures to your garden would include things like bird houses, bat houses or milkweed.

Bird Houses

If you are adding a birdhouse, be sure to research which size and style of birdhouse will be best to attract the bird you are hoping for. Not all birdhouses are created equally and the size of hole and location matters. Not all birds nest in cavities like a bird house.

It would be an educational activity to research what birds you might want to attract that live in your area, how to build the birdhouse, where to place it in your yard, and then seeing what comes and takes up residence. Then if something does live there, watching the bird life cycle can be a fascinating discussion. Try searching up some videos online or live webcams to see up close what is happening similarly in your bird house! Nature Conservancy Canada has some excellent information about bird houses and nesting boxes as does the Cornell Lab of Ornithology article Learn About Nest Boxes and Nest Structures.

Bat Houses

Bats are fascinating creatures that we don’t often see because they are nocturnal. Building a bat house could be an excellent educational project. Learning how to build one, proper yard placement and discovering what types of bats live in your area are all such valuable learning opportunities! Bats also eat a lot of insects so they are helpful to have around! The Ontario Parks Blog has an excellent how-to article that would work for anywhere in Canada.


Monarch butterflies are in trouble and need help. Planting milkweed that is native to your area is a great way to attract and help this vulnerable species. Learn more about why monarchs are in trouble with this Government of Canada Profile of Species at Risk. Royal Botanical Gardens has an article about Growing Milkweed in Ontario and Nature Conservancy Canada has an article about which types of milkweed for which areas of Canada.

A photo of a monarch butterfly caterpillar on a milkweed plant.

Start Your Own Seedlings

If you have always bought your seedlings already started, starting your own can be a great project. However, it can get very complicated fast! The easiest and most economical way to start is using a very sunny window and turning the plants each day. However, leggy seedlings can still be an issue. Setting up lights is more costly but the most economical is to buy tube lights. Shop lights that are 6500K are the ones that are the most economical and they are fine for starting seedlings indoors. You can use zip ties to attach them to shelves (shelves with slats allow for this attachment). Lights that are actually called grow lights are more costly but are better if you are hoping to grow things indoors year-round.

Remember that only some seeds benefit from being started ahead of time. Some actually do worse if started indoors before transplanting. Don’t start seeds too early, either- they will just get leggy and hard to control indoors.

The biggest tip about starting seeds indoors is to make sure you understand about hardening off your seedlings. Without this, seedlings will be shocked and die or be set back by the sudden temperature change of being brought outside.  Homeschool Gardens has some additional information about starting seeds using a window. The blog Grow a Good Life explains about starting seeds with lights.

Composting for the First Time or New Ways to Compost

Composting can be a fascinating project and the finished product is very beneficial to your garden. I have had the most success with the basic plastic composters that you just add things to and let it sit. There are so many ways to speed decomposition up but I haven’t taken the time. Eventually everything decomposes! Remember not to add anything like meats, fats and oils. Only add gardening waste and kitchen fruit and vegetable scraps. I also try to save the leaves from the yard and add them in layers on top of the kitchen scraps so that there will be a good balance of different things in the compost. The great thing about compost is that there are so many ways to make it “faster” but if you are willing to wait, it doesn’t matter! 

We tried vermicomposting indoors with worms which was a neat project. Unfortunately I messed up the wet and dry balance and the worms died, but I know others have had more success. It was still a good learning opportunity! 

You can even make your own compost or manure “tea” (for the garden- not for you!) and water your plants with it. This year I am trying to grow some comfrey which an area gardener uses to make comfrey tea. Comfrey tea is a natural fertilizer for the garden. 

For more information on composting, Freedom Homeschooling has an excellent post all about Teaching Composting to Kids and Its Benefits.

Some Additional Garden and Outdoor Resources

Here are some additional gardening resources that you might enjoy having a look at. Warning: if you are a brand-new gardener, remember to keep things simple and don’t try to do it all in one year!

Gardening for Kids Websites

Are you and your kids interested in learning more about nature? We have a post all about How to Study Canadian Nature in Your Homeschool as well as posts about Canadian Mammals, Easy Birdwatching with Kids, and Canada’s Provincial and Territorial Birds.

An image to promote our other post How to Study Canadian Nature in Your Homeschool.

This post was updated in 2024.