Gardening with children is a rewarding process for everyone involved. It is messy, therapeutic and downright delightful to get our hands covered in dirt. Remember, all kids are washable, so let them get dirty!
If you do not have a lot of yard space, simply choose a few rectangular planters or larger round pots for your child to plant their seeds in. Magic can happen in small pots on a balcony as well! The experience of seeing seeds grow into plants is something that is important for children’s knowledge of where their food comes from. If you are lucky enough to have the extra space on your land, pick a section or a row of your garden for your child to use or dig a small 2’ x 5’ plot that is strictly for your child to plant in and tend to.
Here are some exciting and easy vegetables to grow from seed:
Carrots – Carrot seeds are teeny tiny and might seem difficult for little hands to plant but don’t let that discourage you. Let your little one sprinkle lots of carrot seeds with ease, cover them with a layer of fresh earth, water and wait patiently. When the little seedlings start to grow true leaves, teach your child how to thin the seedlings, leaving a couple of inches in between each to allow room for a carrot to grow. More experienced little gardeners can wait a bit longer before thinning completely and enjoy tiny, narrow baby carrots, thinning these selectively and gobbling them up promptly. Miniature carrots are so special. At the end of the summer, giant carrots will surprise little hands. Nothing tastes better than a sweet, fresh, plump carrot pulled right from the ground, dusted off and chomped into. The awe a child experiences, when a long bright orange carrot is discovered with a good tug from the ground, is priceless.
Radishes – Simply the name of a common radish variety – Easter Egg – is enough for a child to want to try to grow these perfectly round, colorful vegetables. Fresh radishes resemble bright jewels as little hands enjoy discovering them after only a few weeks of patience. Radishes are rewarding to plant because they have the shortest time from planting to harvesting of any vegetable. While the taste of a radish might be too spicy for some young people, try slathering a dab of soft butter on a thin slice of radish for your child as a fresh snack.
Potatoes – Stop by your local greenhouse and buy a seed potato. Better yet, let your child pick it! Stick this in the ground (after all chances of the extended soggy soil season are past) and mound the new leaf growth throughout the summer with straw, fresh dirt or compost. If you don’t have a mound or a garden plot, you can use bags specially designed for growing potatoes. It’s just as important to cover new leaf growth with fresh soil when grown in a bag as when grown in a mound. The reward of planting your potato will be epic. Digging for bright potatoes in the ground in the fall is like digging for treasures. One potato plant should yield at least a dozen fruit for your child.
Green Beans – Big bush bean seeds are magical in themselves. Stick them in the fertile ground in warmer weather and with regular watering, lush large leaves will slowly emerge, later flowering and providing the quintessential taste of summer within a fresh green bean. Watch these disappear fast! Pickling the green beans could be another fun project for your child.
Sugar Snap Peas – Consider creating a pea tent using bamboo poles and twine! Plant the seeds around the base of the tent and watch them grow, creating a green tepee. Children enjoy secret spaces for hiding out where adults are not always watching them. Imagine how many peas your kids will eat while hiding out in their special spot! Throw in a few morning glory seeds and the flowers add another element of wonder to this tepee structure. If space does not allow for this, a simple few sticks with string will allow for pea tendrils to grab on and grow upward.
Herbs are another gratifying and gorgeous edible plant to enjoy. Chives, with their lovely purple pompom flowers, make a fun walkway decorations instead of ubiquitous hostas. Mint spreads everywhere and can be harvested to make delicious mint tea, which is also cooling in the summer.
Other fun things to grow with kids include watermelons, pumpkins, sunflowers, and strawberries. Instead of hanging flower pots, plant hanging strawberry plants! Experiment and have fun learning together what works and what might be more challenging!
Children need to experience and enjoy the simplest pleasures life can provide, and we must be the ones to nurture this and encourage them to get dirty, work hard, and learn how to grow their own food. The feelings of accomplishment this will provide them with will stay with them throughout their lives, encouraging this to be passed on from generation to generation.