Anyone that knows Stella knows that she is a nature baby. She has loved being outdoors from the time she was born. I often say that she would live outside if I would let her!
Last spring, I planted a small crop of cherry tomatoes and carrots because I knew that they would be easy for her to pick. I never expected her to love them as much as she did. Her love for the garden made it that much more important to me to create a toddler friendly space this spring!
I knew that I wanted to expand upon my vegetable garden from last year. I have a great bed that runs along the back of my fence line that receives full sun, perfect for growing summer crops. Last year I grew cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, butter lettuce, strawberries, carrots, and a variety of herbs. Stella absolutely loved picking the tomatoes and carrots! She would eat them straight off of the vine on a daily basis!
This year, I decided to add to my garden by including blueberries, grape tomatoes, spinach, watermelon, cucumbers, pole beans, and pumpkins! I chose these based on Stella's favorites! She loves blueberries, watermelon, and green beans! (The cucumbers are for me because I want to try to make pickles.) Stella also fell in love with pumpkins last fall! We spent almost every weekend at the arboretum so that she could run around and play with the pumpkins! I decided we need to try to grow a few for her for this fall!
The most important element was that the garden itself be toddler friendly. For this, I began thinking about creating spaces for her to explore. I decided to focus on creating little nooks for her to play and get lost in her imagination.
Immediately I thought of two things: sunflowers and bean teepee! The adventures that could ensue within the shadows of giant sunflowers or within a canopy of vines and beans sounded appealing to me as an adult, and magical for Stella as a toddler.
The sunflower element was an easy project. I decided to plant two patches of sunflowers at each end of my vegetable garden. I decided to plant from seeds and it couldn't have been easier! I planted the seeds and within a week I had stems popping up. I thinned out the flowers and now they are over 1' tall! I can't wait to watch them grow this summer!!
Connecting the two would be a brick path winding throughout all of the spring and summer vegetables we would be growing. I imagined her walking the path from end to end and eating from the garden as she goes. Just beyond the sunflowers on either end would be two retreats for her to adventure to; her playhouse and a bean teepee.
The playhouse was a whole adventure of its own that I documented here.
The bean teepee, was such a fun and simple project! Matt was cutting down some of our crape myrtle branches that were hanging over our fence one weekend. I decided to save the branches to make the teepee. They were sturdy enough to support the vines, and a I could cut them into a variety of sizes. I started by setting three branches up and positioning them so that they supported one another in traditional teepee form. I decided to add a fourth branch for extra support since they would need to support the weight of beans and eventually mini pumpkins.
From there, I added a few additional vertical supports and began adding horizontal sections as well. I secured each section as I went with jute string I had in the garage. Once the teepee was formed, I pulled in some landscaping rocks we had around the yard and a few extra limbs to create a seating space underneath the teepee. I envision us reading here in the summer!
I dug a small shallow trench around the base of the teepee and planted the pole beans per the packet's instructions. Within a week I had sprouts! Now, three weeks later, I have climbing vines! I don't have any beans yet, but by June the teepee will be covered with dripping green beans, Stella's favorite! Once the beans begin to die off in July, I plan on planting the mini pumpkin seeds. That way the babies will be fresh for the picking come October!
Our backyard is slowly turning into a family friendly retreat. I can't wait to begin harvesting our vegetables and watch Stella play among the sunflowers and beans. I think that connecting to nature is such an amazing way for toddlers to learn and engage their creativity, and a toddler friendly garden is the perfect place for this learning and exploring to take place!
Do you plan on creating a toddler friendly garden? If so, what elements are you going to add? I'd love to hear about it!