Unlike many of you, my family didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to grow a garden during the past year of Almost Never Leaving the House, so we thought we’d make up for that by having a garden this year. But, where to start? I learned about a company called Leaf’d Box that does gardening subscription boxes for families, especially those whose kids are on the younger side of things.
Set up similarly to other types of subscription boxes, Leaf’d Box’s services will periodically send you mailers that include seeds, healthy plants, and plenty of resources to get your garden going and keep your garden healthy. I had the opportunity to try out their products for review. They sent an Herb Garden and a Small Veggie Education Kit for us to try out.
My gardening skill is not zero, but it’s definitely on the “beginner” side of things. My partner Rory has more experience, having done landscaping with the FFA in high school, and my daughter really enjoys gardening. But none of us are what I would call experts. So I think we were a good family to try this out on, even though my kids are teenagers and not little anymore.
How Does It Work?
To start out with Leaf’d Box, first decide whether you just want plants with a subscription box, or whether you want a fuller, educational experience with their Education Kit. Second, choose your garden size and type—herbs or vegetables (small/regular/large garden)—and place your order. Third, wait patiently for the plants to arrive, perhaps even preparing your garden bed or pots in anticipation. Fourth, when the package arrives, get ready to plant! There will be a few steps you’ll need to do before actually planting the plants, so be sure to read all the directions. Fifth, if you chose an Education Kit, follow along with the lessons and activities as your plants continue to grow. You’ll get two lessons per week for the duration of the curriculum.
For the subscription boxes, they will send boxes four times a year with plants that thrive during that particular season: early spring, spring, summer, and fall. The Small Veggie and Herb subscriptions have 4-6 types of plants per box, the regular Veggie subscription has 8-12 types of plants per box, and the Large Veggie subscription has 10-18 types of plants per box.
The plants come via 2-day express shipping, and ours were still moist and extremely healthy when they arrived. (It was winter, though, so we made sure to nab the boxes as soon as they came.)
What Do I Get With My Subscription?
If, by the time the plants arrive, you’ve forgotten how it all works, the boxes come with a couple of QR codes on them to scan to get you started. Then you can figure out the rest after you’ve made the plants at home, hardening them off inside. Kits include high quality viable seeds (so many of ours successfully sprouted), and the plants are in great condition and thrive under proper care. They don’t send any duds, and set you up for success. The rest is up to you.
Our Small Veggie Education Kit came with: two tomato, two pepper, two basil, two squash, and two cucumber plants, along with seeds for radishes, spinach, and beets. The list of what you receive will vary by the season.
Our Herb Garden came with: two parsley, two chive, two thyme, sage, oregano, lemon balm, and mint plants.
There was also supposed to be an included mini-magazine with more information, but I think they forgot to send that part. Still, their website is filled with help, resources, and articles, and they are available to answer any questions you may have.
No matter which subscription or kit you order, you’ll also receive fairly frequent emails with pep talks and more information about your plants and plants in general. The emails give sufficient information so you know what you’re doing. And, if you ever get stuck, the Leaf’d Box team is available to answer questions, and they also post tips on social media to keep everyone and their plants heading in the right direction. If you ordered an Education Kit, you’ll get even more emails containing links to the educational curriculum. Here’s their FAQ if you have more questions.
If all goes well, you should have edible produce in 4-8 weeks, though you might be able to gently sample your herbs a little early if you’re careful.
What Do I Do When the Plants Arrive?
IMPORTANT: Watch the intro lessons as soon as your plants arrive because you have to do things a certain way. Don’t just grab the plants and stick them in the ground. There are lessons to learn right from the start.
The plant boxes come with QR codes that will get you started right away. Step One will be to start watching the videos. Step Two is to open up the plant container and stand up the plants. Some of them might be a bit tangled up with each other, so be very careful with this step. Step Three is to put a little water in the plastic container and keep it somewhere safe but partially sunny for a day or two. Step Four is to begin preparing the place you’ll eventually plant the seedlings—in pots, in raised beds, or directly in the ground—removing weeds, adding compost or other soil improver. Then, when everything’s ready, Step Five is to plant the plants/seeds.
Since we live somewhere where the last frost date is in May, and the plants happened to arrive on a day in March when it snowed (yes, in Arizona), we hardened the plants off as instructed but then planted them in pots to keep indoors until warmer weather arrives. Because of this, the plants need water considerably less often than if they were outside, so we’re having to deviate from the advice just a bit.
Is Leaf’d Box Any Good?
The Leaf’d Box service is a very approachable, un-intimidating, well-packaged gardening introduction for kids and families. If you’re an adult, the material is a bit simplistic, but it’s great for doing with your younger kids (maybe 12 and under, I’d say). Just enough information to make kids curious, informed, and inspired to learn more, but without gardening jargon that may cause them to disengage. Since it is on the more basic side, though, you may need to Google a few things for your particular situation, though the Leaf’d folks are always available for support.
You’ll get the most out of this subscription by taking a very involved role while doing this with your kids, and you can lead discussions about the plants and gardening topics in general. Then, when there is food to harvest, share in the bounty with the whole family, and involve your kids with any cooking.
I do wish there were more instructions for growing the plants in pots or for starting them indoors and then later moving them to outdoors, but that is easy enough to figure out if necessary. We’re learning pretty quickly which plants are more forgiving than others in our climate.
Do I Need to Buy Anything Else?
You will definitely need a few gardening tools and some gardening gloves, and a hose or watering can. It will be helpful to have Popsicle sticks or other items to use as plant labels. And some of the Education Kit activities require some basics that you probably have around the house already.
If you’ll grow your plants in containers instead of in the ground, you’ll need containers and potting soil. And they recommend using some plant food. Additionally, you may need some pest control products. You won’t need any of this for the first day or two after the plants arrive, though, so there’s plenty of time to assess your needs.
Is Leaf’d Right For My Family?
This is an important question. If you have time to tackle most gardening, though, you’ll have time to try out the Leaf’d Box products.
Make sure you’ll be home often enough to care for the plants, and that you and your kids are disciplined enough to regularly water them and keep tabs on their health.
I’m Already a Plant Expert
If you’re already a plant expert, or if your kids are significantly older, Leaf’d might not be ideal for you, since you may want more control over what goes in your garden, when the plants arrive at your house, etc. Or you may live in a tricky climate. Here in northern Arizona, we have bright sun, but the dry weather and high altitude means our last frost date is usually in May. Cold and dry is a tricky combination for many plants. And our summers are warm to hot and are dry during the first half and wet during the second half. But, we work at home, and are able to keep an eye on a small garden pretty easily. So, we’ll see how it goes!
I’m Up for the Challenge But Am Not a Plant Expert
If you are interested in trying out a variety of edible plants, have young children, and have a little plant know-how but are not an expert and could use some guidance about what to plant, when to plant it, and what care your plants need, Leaf’d is a really fun subscription box. It’s certainly more educational, useful, and hands-on than a lot of subscription boxes out there. And it gets everyone outside and moving around.
Even if using these kits don’t inspire your kids to be home gardeners, learning exactly where our food comes from is an invaluable lesson that they’ll take with them and may give them confidence to try growing their own food in the future.
The Leaf’d Box Education Kit reference material is just right for families who want to successfully grow plants but don’t want to get into the nitty gritty of plant science. The person in the videos narrating how to take care of your “plant babies” is gentle and not at all intimidating. She makes it clear that planting and tending a garden is something that even kids can do, and makes a point to emphasize “progress, not perfection.” She talks at the kids’ level but without sounding condescending, explaining just enough along the way without overwhelming kids and parents with instructions.
Whether you’re homeschoolers, a virtual learning family, or just a family that does plenty of enrichment activities, the Education Kits are a great option, with just-in-time lessons, mini-quizzes, and activities. The lessons cover topics such as garden prep, planting and labeling, watering, photosynthesis, dealing with pests, how to weed, thinning plants, plant health, composting, worms, and more, and later lessons include recipes for some of your produce. There are also activity suggestions, such as keeping a plant journal and sketching the plant leaves. The video lessons are each just a couple of minutes long, and remind you of what was covered in the past before covering new material. Videos show up as you’re supposed to do them, week by week, so I was only able to watch through Week 5, Lesson 2 for this post.
If you live in a place like I do, where the last frost date is strangely late, you might need to take extra care with your plants. As the parent, do some research ahead of time and know your area. Talk to people at local garden centers if needed. Or just make use of the Leaf’d Box contact page.
How Much Does it Cost?
The subscription boxes—Herb Garden, Small Veggie Garden, Medium Veggie Garden, and Large Veggie Garden—range from $44.99 to $179.99 if billed quarterly, and $179.99 to $719.99 if billed annually. The Education Kits—Small Education Kit, Medium Education Kit, and Veggie Seed Education Kit—range from $49.99 to $179.99, though they have periodic sales. If you’re like me, this does sound like a lot of money, but the quality of seeds, plants, and support that they give you makes it a good value. If you’re unsure about your family’s interest and ability to make a go of this on a large scale, maybe consider starting with the small veggie garden or herb garden. Then, if your kids really enjoy themselves, subscribe to a larger option the next time.
The Leaf’d Box subscription packages and educational kits are a good value, considering you start with very viable seeds and healthy seedlings. All our plants quickly got new growth as we took care of them, and the seeds sprouted reliably. The radishes sprouted in only two days, with the spinach and beets shortly behind.
I’ll be writing another post later in the season to wrap up my experience with the Leaf’d Boxes. But my initial impressions are very favorable. I do wish the Education Kits had more in-depth curriculum material, though, making them more applicable to families with older kids. I also wish they had more rigorous references for parents to help their kids, because if the parent knows nothing about gardening, many mistakes might be made, like planing too early, over/under watering, etc. I also wish they had some printables, like garden layout diagrams to fill in, a plant growth chart to complete, etc. I’m sure they’ll keep honing their materials, though, and I expect to continue seeing great things coming out of this company.
Note: I received samples for review purposes.