ABC Garden

Is there anything better on a chilly day than to browse through seed catalogs, dreaming of spring blooms?

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 winter months, the ABC 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' requirements (sun versus shade, for example.)

As spring approaches and the ground thaws, turn the plans into a living work of art!

Remember to guide your child as he or she designs the garden. Together, select a location in your garden, or prepare a new plot in your yard for the ABC Garden. Help the child sketch out the garden space on paper, allocating 26 spaces for plants.

After the initial set-up of the paper garden plot, look through seed catalogs for plant photos from A to Z. Good seed catalogs will give you specific information about the plants' needs, so help your child pay attention to the following:

To get you started on your ABC Garden, here are some ideas. Don't be afraid to combine edible plants with ornamentals:

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

As spring approaches, it's time to make the ABC Garden a reality! Order seeds to start indoors or direct sow, purchase transplants, or plant some transplants and start the others from seed—it's your call!

Allow you child to be creative 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 a school alphabet garden.) Old metal spoons hammered flat and inscribed with the letter and plant name are good, durable, recycled options. Let the creativity run wild!

Have fun with the process of growing the plants, picking flowers, harvesting foods, and sharing time in the garden!