DIY with Kids: Grow Your Own Tomato and Basil Plants

What’s better than a summer tomato? Picking one that you have grown yourself! Here is everything you need to start your edible garden:

Tomato Plants

You will need:

  • Tomato seeds
  • Water
  • Seed starter mix
  • Gardening soil
  • Tomato plant food
  • Sunlight
  • Six six-inch starter pots or paper cups
  • Larger pots for larger tomato plants
  • Potting soil
  1. Before tomato plants can grow, the seeds must germinate or sprout. Start by putting seed starter mix in pots. Place two seeds on top of each pot or cup. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of starter mix and water lightly.
  2. Set your seed pots in a warm indoor space. They should be moist, but not drenched. Have your child check on them every day by lightly touching the soil to make sure it is moist.
  3. In about 5–10 days, your seeds will begin to sprout! Move them to a south-facing window with full sun. Your seedlings will thrive in a warm spot with lots of sunlight. Once your seedlings reach about three inches in height, replant them in larger pots with potting soil, making sure they have adequate space to grow.
  4. Feed tomato plants according to plant food directions. Remember to always keep your plants in a bright window, as these little plants need all the light they can get! Your child can check on these plants every few days and watch them grow bigger and fuller.
  5. Have your child water the tomato plants every morning. They should not be sopping wet but remember, tomato plants love moist soil. If the sun is particularly bright or if you notice the soil drying up faster, watering twice a day might be your best bet.
  6. Once your plants get bigger, they will start to produce flowers. Since you are growing the tomato plants inside, you won’t have the necessary insects and birds to pollinate the plant. When the flowers start to bloom, gently tap the stem of the flowers to distribute and shake out the pollen. This is a great step for kids, but always remember to be gentle.
  7. Your plant should start bearing fruit soon. Have fun, and make something special with the tomatoes you and your child have worked so hard on!

Basil Plants

You will need:

  • Live basil with roots (can usually be found at the grocery store in the organic section)
  • Potting soil
  • Water
  • Large pot or planter with drainage holes and plate
  • Sunlight
  1. Start by filling your pot about ¾ of the way up with soil. Take your basil and place the root ball in the soil.
  2. Cover the root with another inch or two of soil, so the plant can stand on its own. Put the pot in a sink and water the soil liberally, letting the water drain out of the bottom of the pot. As with tomato plants you want the soil to be moist, but not sopping wet.
  3. Place your basil plant in a sunny window that gets at least six hours of sun each day. Place on a saucer to catch excess water and re-water when soil is dry to the touch. After a while, you might notice your basil plant begin to flower. Simply pinch off the flowers so the basil can continue to grow leaves.
  4. Make a delicious salad with your homegrown basil and tomatoes!

For more information on locally-grown produce and home gardening, check out First 5 LA’s guide to Eating Fresh.

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