Toronto Gardening with Kids

Toronto Gardening with Kids - SavvyMom

Every May, I look at my yard and I say, “This is it; this is the year I successfully plant a beautiful garden that will bring myself and my neighbours colour and joy for months to come.” And then life interferes with the Toronto gardening. Ands ure, my family does plant a few things, but the yard never quite comes together like I imagine it could.

But this year, this year will be different because this year I’m putting my kids to work in our garden. If you have similar ambitions, this article is for you! Read on for some tips on how to incorporate your kids into your Toronto gardening dreams and a quick look at five plants that almost anyone in the GTA can grow outside.

Tips for Toronto Gardening with Kids

Get Some Inspiration

A walk around your neighbourhood is an easy way to collect some gardening inspo. Bring your phone and use an app such as Google Lens to identify plants that catch your or your child’s eye. Take things up a notch and stop by the Toronto Botanical Garden, at 777 Lawrence Ave. E. Here your family can explore over a dozen themed gardens. While some are a bit ambitious for the typical homeowner, you’re sure to leave with a least a couple of actionable ideas. The Garden also regularly hosts special events, including Pollinator Week, which runs June 17 -23 this year. Admission to  Garden is free.

Or head downtown to Allan Gardens, 160 Gerrard St. E. There, in addition to a fantastic collection of tropical/indoor plants, you’ll find the Children’s Conservatory. The Friends of Allan Gardens hosts programming in this space, some of which includes family-friendly horticultural events. While Allan Gardens is free to access, the special programming sometimes has a fee.

Want to go on more of an adventure? Then take a trip to the Royal Botanical Gardens, located at 680 Plains Rd. W. in Burlington. Featuring over 300 acres of cultivated gardens, this place is sure to invigorate your family’s green thumbs. Just note that there is an entry, which starts at $11.50.

Go Shopping

Once the kids and you have a sense of the vibe you want your garden to give off, it’s time to buy some plants and other supplies. Depending on your kids’ age you can really get them involved in this process and even make it a little educational. For example, have that kid who’s still perfecting their printing skills write down the shopping list, which you’ll dictate. Then it’s off to the greenhouse. While you can hit up the big box stores, it’s always nice to support local small businesses. A few of the top non-chain greenhouses for Toronto gardening include Fiesta Gardens at 200 Christie St., Davenport Garden Centre at 368 Davenport Rd., and the Evergreen Garden Market located inside the Brick Works. And of course there’s always Sheridan Nurseries, which has multiple locations around the GTA. All these shops have a wide selection of plants and staff that can recommend which plants are best for your yard.

Speaking of which plants to select, scroll down to the bottom of this article and read my roundup of five mostly native Ontario perennials that are almost always thrive. But make sure to also include your kids in the selection process; having them pick out some plants makes it more likely that they’ll want to care for them! Besides plants and the usual materials, you may also want to get your kids some gardening gloves. Those might seem like an unnecessary item but take a moment and picture all that dirt and compost getting pushed up and under your kids’ nails Do you want to clean that out? No. Get the gloves.

Toronto Gardening with Kids Growing Strawberries - SavvyMom

Consider Berries and Veggies

Do your kids devour berries by the basket? Then give your wallet a break by getting your kids to grow their own berries. Strawberry plants are now sold in planters and hanging baskets, making them something you can even grow on a balcony. And with the right care, can produce quite the bounty. Another prolific berry plant is the raspberry. Just make sure you have enough room for these hardy but spacious bushes, which will require some pruning (but those sweet berries are worth
the work). A little easier to maintain are highbush blueberries. Growing these are also a lesson in patience, as they don’t produce fruit in their first year. Growing your own vegetables may spark your kids’ interest in eating them. Tomatoes (yes, these technically aren’t vegetables, but you know what I mean) are relatively easy to grow so long as you have a sunny spot and watching them ripen is surprisingly satisfactory. And many greenhouses sell kid-friendly vegetables such as peppers and cucumbers that are already established in a planter, increasing the odds you’ll end up with something you can actually eat.

Give Them Realistic Tasks

Incorporate gardening into your kids’ chore routine by agreeing on some simple and regular tasks. For example, get them in the habit of doing daily moisture checks on the soil and then, depending on their maturity level and your comfort level, put them in charge of keeping your garden appropriately watered. Deadheading flowers is another task that most kids can easily tackle, and even toddlers can help you keep an eye out for tomatoes that are ready for harvesting (though letting them actually pick your produce may lead to few casualties). If your kids are a little older, weeding can also be a great job for them to tackle; just be very clear about what should be pulled and what should be left alone.

Document The Journey

If your kids are elementary school age or older, have them document their gardening adventures. Maybe this means keeping a journal, maybe it means creating some drawings, maybe it means taking some photos on your phone and posting them to your Instagram account. Chat with your kids and decide on a method that best lets them express their creativity and nurture their talents, alongside their plants.

Five Great Flowering Plants for Toronto Gardening

Plant hardiness zones are a system created to help gardeners ensure that they are picking plants that have a reasonable chance of actually flourishing outdoors. It breaks North America into different numbered zones and ideally, you only plant plants rated for your zone. Toronto and area are mostly zone seven, though this can vary a bit. Check out this Natural
Resources Canada guide to find your area’s exact zone.

But only selecting plants appropriate for your zone is just the first step in finding the right greenery for your yard. You also need to consider shade and sun direction, how much attention you can give your garden, wildlife risks, and more. Yeah, it’s a lot. So I’ve rounded up five zone seven friendly plants that are relatively low maintenance, while also being pretty.

Toronto Gardening with Kids Bee Balm - SavvyMom

Bee balm:

If you have a sunny patch that could use a shot of colour, this fast-growing native perennial is a fun choice. Colours vary from red to different shades of pink and purple and even blue and white, and all the flowers look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. Blooming can last for weeks, over the summer and into the fall. As its name suggests, bees love this plant as do other pollinators. However, it’s supposedly a mosquito repellent and rabbits and deer generally ignore it, so it’s a smart option if you have those furry creatures in your neighbourhood.

Blue Vervain Toronto Gardening with Kids - SavvyMom

Blue vervain:

If you need some height in your garden, consider blue vervain as its slender stems can reach as high as six feet. During the summer and into the fall, it has small blue or purple blossoms that are known to attract pollinators, including butterflies. It’s a native flower that you can basically plant and forget about, making it ideal for busy families.

Blue Flag Iris Toronto Gardening with Kids - SavvyMom

Blue flag iris:

If you’re looking for a native iris that’s also relatively low maintenance (though it does require regular watering and at least partial sun), this is a good choice. It reaches heights as high as three feet and produces beautiful blue/purple flowers in the spring and early summer that attract all kinds of pollinators, including hummingbirds. Once established, you can easily spread this plant around by re-planting a chunk of its rhizome (the plant’s underground stem). Just note that like all irises the rhizome can be toxic so make sure kids and pets aren’t digging it up and eating it.

Woodland Sunflowers Toronto Gardening - SavvyMom

Woodland sunflower:

If you want some colour in your garden come autumn, you want to plant some woodland sunflower seeds (preferably in the late fall). No, these aren’t the sunflowers  you’re likely thinking of; these are smaller and shorter, but their sunny yellow colour is just as bright. They also can spread, which can be a good or bad thing, depending on what you’re going for. These native plants are also great for pollinators and are known to be drought tolerant.

Petunias Toronto Gardening - SavvyMom


I know, I know, we’re only supposed to plant native flowers but I’m cheating here and including petunias because they are so colourful, so cheap and so hardy. They also bloom for months and are one of the best options for flower boxes. Technically, petunias are perennials but they generally won’t survive our winters so you will have to buy these each season. But with all the cool colours and patterns out there, this is a pretty easy task to take on.


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