Create a Garden That Grows With Your Family

Take a long-term view when designing a family-friendly garden or backyard.

kids in a tree fort

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If you have a garden and a young family, you will surely understand how important to family life a garden can be. There are many ways to help our gardens meet our families' needs and to ensure that our gardens are used to the fullest.

Child-friendly gardening is about far more than just ensuring their safety. It is about making sure that we foster in them a love of nature and raise eco-conscious citizens for the future. A garden where they can learn, grow, and play is a precious thing. 

One thing that is often overlooked, however, when designing and creating gardens, is that a family's needs will change over time.  A garden that suits an under-five-year-old will not be quite as perfect once the child is a preteen, and then reaches their teenage years.

When designing a family-friendly garden, we should take a long-term view—thinking not only about how the garden will change over time and how we can use and embrace that change, but also how we ourselves and our family will change as the years go by.

A garden that can adapt to our changing needs and wishes will be one that requires less work over time, and which should evolve alongside us and our families rather than becoming less ideal for us as time goes by.

Create Multifunctional Spaces and Systems

In sustainable garden design, we often talk about how every element should have multiple functions, and every function should be met by multiple elements.

Adding multifunctional elements is especially important when it comes to creating a family-friendly garden because this allows us to make the most of the space and, potentially, to meet the disparate needs of different family members, at the same time.

To give an example of a multifunctional element, think about a typical kids' jungle gym. Kids love play equipment of this kind and may use such a structure over many years. But rather than choosing an off-the-shelf jungle gym, we might consider creating a wooden jungle gym that can also serve as a trellis or support structure for plants to climb on, as well as kids. 

The space below the structure might also be a den, even becoming a teen hangout spot in later years with only very minor changes. And screening plants can make sure that your garden looks like more than just a kids' play park. 

Grow for Tomorrow, Not Just Today

father and son planting a tree

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Plant an apple tree, for example, for a newborn baby and your child can run around it as both grow. The tree will provide more than just fruit and is another great example of a multi-functional element to include. The child might climb or swing from it once it grows to suitable size and reaches maturity, and then have a place to chill out with friends in the tree's shade as they both mature.

Choosing elements and maintaining systems that do so many different things can be far better than incorporating less varied or inflexible elements that cannot so easily be changed or replaced over time.

Some of your decisions might not even pay off until much further down the line. For example, you might choose to plant nut trees that won't necessarily provide a harvest for many years, but could be a boon to your children or grandchildren.

A great garden takes years to come fully to fruition. But it can be well worthwhile to plant not only for ourselves but for future generations. The beauty and abundance in a well-designed garden can grow a lot over time, growing with your own family and others around you.

Making the right design and planting decisions to begin with can help facilitate a healthy evolution and allow positive changes to take place—in our gardens and in ourselves.