It doesn't take a spacious yard to introduce your kids to the joys of gardening. With just a couple of wooden boards and a handful of screws, you can quickly construct a raised bed like the one shown here. It provides about 8 square feet of planting area -- enough room for a child to grow a variety of vegetables and flowers without being overwhelming. The portable frame lets you skip the hard digging (you simply fill it with good-quality soil), and it tends to warm up faster than the ground.
Here are three colorful veggie-and-flower combinations. Go to territorialseed.com or cooksgarden.com for more ideas.
Green and Gold
1 bush bean, such as Blue Lake, in a back corner
4 French marigolds (which repel pests) in front of the bush bean
4 compact peppers, such as Jingle Bells, beside the bean and the marigolds
Fruit and Veggie
1 compact bush cucumber, such as Salad Bush, in half of the bed
1 or 2 chive plants in the opposite corners
3 everbearing Alpine strawberries (Golden Alexandria has supersweet fruit and colorful foliage) between the chives
2 dwarf tomato plants (Patio Hybrid or Husky Cherry Red), in one half of the bed
3 or 4 lettuce plants (compact butterhead or colorful red leaf) in one quarter of the bed; once they're used up, replace them with herbs
1 packet of radish seeds (Easter Egg has 3 colors per package), in the remaining quarter; after you pick them, plant more
Cut each of the cedar boards as shown. Mark the lines on the side pieces, then drill three 5/32-inch screw holes centered between each pair of lines. Drill seven 5/32-inch screw holes in each bench, spacing them as shown, 3/4 inch from the edge.
Assemble the base of the bed by arranging the side and end pieces on edge, as shown, and screwing all the pieces together. Next, set the benches atop the ends of the frame and screw them in place.
Finally, select a level spot that gets at least 6 hours of sun a day. Loosen the soil in that area with a garden fork or spade and set your wooden frame over it. Mix in equal parts good-quality topsoil and well-composted organic material, and you're ready to start planting.