I love to garden. I always have and always will I'm sure. I've done it since I was a small child with my mother and sometimes my dad as well. I can't think of a time when I didn't garden. Even in high school I helped here and there. My first apartment balcony was filled with flower pots, and as soon as spring hit, the side of the steps of my first house was adorned with flowers.
It started with flowers then I incorporated garden vegetables and now I have the best of both worlds in this little paradise of a farm we are so blessed to live on! The best part about it is that my kids are right there next to me. And they actually enjoy it! They are just as excited about growing as me! Even about eating all those tasty vegetables!
I'm telling ya people, garden with your children. It can bring them a lifetime of healthy eating habits and endless memories of spending quality time learning something new with YOU!
To get you started I have made a list of the best plants for gardening with kids. The criteria to make this list includes ease of planting, ease of care, kids preference to the flavor, and the abundance of fun it is to grow. This is just a starting point. I hope that once you get going you venture into new things.
*I've included links to the varieties we use. I am in no way affiliated with rareseeds.com or Baker Creek (same company). I just truly love the variety and quality of their seeds! I know they are just as much against GMO's as me which gives me a piece of mind when ordering from them. I'm sure you will love them too!
The Best Plants for Gardening with Kids
Peas are easy for even the smallest of hands to plant. They are one of the first things I let the kids help me plant. They are spaced 1-2 inches apart which is great for excited little ones. It isn't a big deal if they are planted to close or a whole pile gets planted in one spot. They are very forgiving. Be sure to provide some kind of trellis for them.
I recommend doing several plantings about 2 weeks apart each. Once these plantings start to fade mid summer you can plant another crop, right in the same spot, for fall. The pods are very easy for little ones to harvest. Pick a sweet variety over the snow or garden pea type. They are best for fresh eating and your kids will enjoy them more.
You can easily save mature pods to collect seeds for the next year. Let the pods dry then remove the peas and store in a paper bag.
1. dig a trench that is several inches deep along your trellis.
2. place the seeds in the trench 1-2" apart.
3. Cover with 1" of dirt and water well.. Some seeds might pop up, be sure to get them back down in the soil.
4. Keep them moist until several inches tall then water regularly.
Sugar Snap Pea
2. Giant Sunflowers
These babies can grow to be over 6 feet tall! They grow so quick that I think you can measure their growth by the day. That would be a fun experiment to try with the kids. We like to plant them in a way to form walls. Some friends of our are going to plant two rows then tie the heads together (with string) to form a tunnel. You can plant them in a circle and tie the top together to for a teepee. Or try planting them in a spiral for a cool affect.
Once they bloom they attract bees but they are tall enough that they shouldn't cause any problems. We have never had any stings. Not from bees visiting the sunflowers that is. However several of my children have thought it to be a good idea to catch a bee. They learned it wasn't real quick. I remember doing the same thing in kindergarten.
It's that silly song, Do you know it? "I'm bringing home a baby bumble bee. won't my mommy be so proud of me." It does continue to say "ouch, it bit me!" So why do we still go and catch a bee? I have no idea! Maybe don't teach your little one that song but do grow sunflowers with them.
When the seeds mature in the fall cut off the heads and let them dry. Then remove the seeds. Save some to plant next year and roast the rest for a tasty treat.
This is how you do it. Soak the seeds in salted water over night. It should taste salty but not too salty. Drain the water and spread in a thin layer on a cookie sheet. cook them in the oven at 350 degrees F until they are dry and slightly browned, stirring them periodically.
My kids eat them raw or cooked. They are like little mice.
1. Poke you finger into the soil about 3/4 of an inch.
2. Place a seed in the whole and cover with soil.
3. Water thoroughly keeping moist until sprouts appear.
4. Water as needed or until several feet high. At this point they are pretty drought tolerant and will do just fine in most places if left un-watered.
Lettuce is and easy and fast crop to grow. Kids like seeing quick results. The seeds are a little small but still doable for a child. We plant ours fairly close and use a cut and come again method to harvest them. This means is grows 4+ inches in height. We cut it back, but not to the ground, then come back in a week or so and it is ready to harvest again.
Densely seeding works well for tis and helps keep the ground covered making it harder for weeds to grow and keeping the ground moist. Lettuce doesn't like the heat of the summer. It must be grown in spring/early summer or fall. You can get away with growing it in shade during the hottest parts of the summer.
It grows quickly. Plant a small patch every week for a continuous supply of lettuce. Be sure to plant multiple varieties for nutrition and color in your salad.
I also suggest planting each variety in a different spot. Lettuce can get aphids. If one patch does get aphids then perhaps the other patches, planted in different locations will not. Can't put all your eggs in one basket!
My kids will sit in the garden and eat lettuce all day long. Have picky eaters who don't want to eat their veggies? It seems to change their perspective when they know they were a part of growing them, they were picked fresh from their garden. All of a sudden they like veggies!
1. Form small trenches 3-4 inches apart.
2. Gently sprinkle the seeds into the trench.
3. Cover lightly and water gently so you do not wash away the seeds.
Rouge De Hiver
4. Dwarf Pak Choi
Dwarf Pak Choi is and Asian cabbage that grows to be just several inches tall. It only takes a few weeks for it to reach maturity. Then it will from blossoms that look like miniature broccoli heads and taste just about the same as they look.
We eat them even when they get to the flowering stage because we love the broccoli taste. Broccoli can be tricky to grow because of cabbage worms. Dwarf Pak Choi is a great alternative.
Let some go to seed to save for next year. They form long skinny pods after flowering. Allow them to dry out then collect them into a paper bag. Now you are all set for next year or even a fall planting.
Make a shallow trench and sprinkle seeds inside. Cover with about 1/4" of garden soil and keep moist until sprouted and established. Then water as needed, never letting the soil become too dry.
Extra Dwarf Pak Choi
5. Cherry or Pear Tomatoes
Cherry and Pear tomatoes are another quick and prolific producer. They come in all different varieties and colors. They are just the right size for little hands and snacking.
Your kids will be popping them in their mouth like candy just like my kids!
1. Start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost date.
2. Once they have at least 2 true leaves pot up into a 4" pot. Barry the stem all the way up to the leaves. The stem will actually grow roots. This form a nice strong root system to support the plant.
3. Fertilize with fish emulsion at half strength at 5 weeks for best results.
4. You may need to pot up once more before planting out. Are there roots coming out the bottom of the pot? If so, and you are still a few weeks off from planting, Pot up into a bigger pot.
5. About a week and a half before your last frost date start hardening off your plants. Put them out in the morning sun for about twenty minutes. Increasing the length each day by 5-10 minutes until it is time to plant them out.
* This may sound like a lot reading this but really it isn't. Just give it a try. You and your little one will be so happy with the results. Taking care of the plants is a good chore for little ones and another way to get them involved.
Fox Cherry- these were not listed at the writing of this post. I bet they are just out at the moment. Keep checking, they're fabulous! They are on the same site as the other tomatoes.
6. Pole Beans
There are two type of beans, pole and bush. Pole take slightly longer to produce but are typically more prolific. I have found that both my children and I tend to snap bush bean plants off at the base when harvesting. They seem to be somewhat fragile. Now we just grow pole beans for the most part. They grow well and we don't have to worry about killing the plant when we harvest. We enjoy the beans straight of the vine as well as cooked into our favorite dishes.
There are so many different types of beans. They all vary in color, length, stringless, not stringless… You can even grow yard long beans! Now tell me that won't excite a small child. They are like nothing they've ever seen before.
Pole beans are another crop that are fun to make living walls with. Tie 6 poles together to make a teepee and plant several beans at the base of each pole. Your kids will have a living fort, a special little place to escape the summer sun and enjoy a fresh picked snack from the garden. Your earning some major brownie points and they are learning to love their veggies!
1. Soak the seeds in water for 1 hour to aid germination. If you forget this step it's ok but you will have better result if you include it.
2. Poke a whole 3/4" deep or make a trench that is several inches deep.
3. Place you seed (bean) in the whole or along the trench. The seeds should be about 4-6" apart.
4. Cover with about 1" of dirt.
5. Water thoroughly and keep moist until seeds have sprouted and plants are several inches tall. then water regularly.
Purple Podded Pole Bean
Chinese Red Noodle Bean
How do you think your kids would feel about their own personal size cantaloupe? Sweet and juicy dripping down their cheeks. Your thinking you want in on that too I know. We started growing these mini versions of cantaloupe and they are crazy good. It can be difficult to find melons that will have a long enough growing season up here in North Dakota, but then we found the Minnesota midget.. Oh, they are so good and we are so looking forward to them this year!
1. A week after last frost date, form a hill several feet in diameter and make a little crater in the center. You want it to be able to hold water so the water doesn't run down the sides when watering.
2. Plant your seed about 1" deep and cover with soil.
3. Water thoroughly and keep moist until sprouted then water regularly.
Minnesota Midget- These were not listed on Rare seeds at the writing of this blog. Check back in, they will restock.
Sweet crunchy carrots from the garden, mmmm yummy! Did you know that they come in all different sizes and shapes? Off the top of my head you can get, white, orange, yellow, red, purple and black. You can get small round ones, long and slender, more traditional ones, or stumpy and fat 1 pounders! Some varieties take awhile while other take only 55 days.
Try several different kinds for a colorful snack and salad. You don't have to wait for them to reach their full size to start harvesting. We start harvesting them once they are about 1/2 their expected size. This is how we thin them out and make room for the others to reach their full size. No little baby carrots are wasted this way.
1. Form a trench 1-2" deep.
2. Gently sprinkle the seeds along the trench.
3. Lightly cover the seeds.
4. Gently water and keep moist until several inches tall then water regularly.
Perisienne -small and round
Cosmic Purple- purple skin with orange center
Ox Heart- squatty and thick, can weight up to 1 pound
Little Finger- small, sweet, and quick to mature
What are you planting in your garden this year? Are you trying anything new? Is there anything particular that you like growing with small children? Please share in the comments.
Thinking about starting your own garden? Maybe you have just started a garden. For a simple yet complete guide to gardening check out my new book, "Everything You Need to Know to Start Your Garden". Remember that I'm here for you every step of the way. Your emails and questions are always welcome!
Hello, I'm Jaci. I love gardening and being outside in God's amazing creation. I'm passionate about whole foods and clean eating. I look forward to sharing my farming adventures and helping you reach your gardening goals!