One big mistake that people make when they want to start a garden is trying to do too much. Believe it or not, some things are just easier to buy. Certain vegetables take a lot of space to grow, or bring unwanted insects, or have very, very, long growing seasons. For this reason, many vegetables and fruits are just easier to stay away from.
With that said other varieties are extremely easy to grow, offer prolific production or are just really fun to grow, especially with kids. I made this list chiefly with the little ones in mind. All of the plants that are listed below meet the above criteria.
If you think your local garden store offers a lot of plants or seeds, think again. There are literally thousands of different fruits, vegetables, and cultivars. Over time you may see or taste something new and want to try growing it. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it does not work no matter how hard you try. This is the nature of gardening, failure in the garden leads to great success. It teaches a gardener what to do, and what not to do.
Most importantly you will learn over time what plants to stay far away from, and which to experiment with. Fearlessness is the key, and, never forgetting that failure in the garden is not a failure at all. Each time something does not work, it’s just an attempt. Try something else. Without further ado, here it the list!
Potatoes (Yukon Gold)
These are one of the absolute best to grow with kids. The plant above ground thrives, and it is straightforward to care for. It takes the plant about three months to fully develop, so it also teaches patience. But, with patience, there comes great reward. Harvest time! Kind of a boring mess of plant above the soil, all of the magic is happening beneath. When it comes time to harvest there will be a treasure of potatoes. Throughout the growing cycle, dirt must be added to the plant as it grows taller and taller. This creates a job for the children of watching the plant daily, and tending to it by adding dirt when necessary. Responsibility, monitoring, care, and patience. This is by far my favorite! (Check out the potato harvest video at the bottom!)
Cucumbers (Dasher II)
These are super fun for the kids to watch them grow. Most kids know what a cucumber is, or a pickle, or relish. That makes this one really fun. They can relate, they know what the end result is going to be, but the journey there is an exciting one. Watching the tiny sprout of a cucumber grow into a giant vegetable as they see at the store is exhilarating. These do take a bit of space, but they are also easy to grow and can make many delicious treats at harvest time. Try this recipe for a delicious summer treat with your fresh cucumbers.
Cherry Tomatoes (Sungold & Fantastico)
This is the single best things to grow with kids. When I say prolific, I mean it. Once the fruit has set, you will not stop picking until it is time to put the garden to bed in the fall. Kids love them. They are sweet and delicious, and if you pluck and eat them in the hot sun, you won’t soon forget the taste, and neither will the kids. Very tasty, very productive, very easy to grow.
Lettuce (Red Leaf & Butter)
I am not going to lie to you. Lettuce is boring, and kids don’t usually like it. But it is also a prolific grower, something that can be started earlier in the season, and comes in a variety of cool colors and types. Great to fill in the garden, add color, and show just how much and how fast a garden can produce for you if you care for it. Easy for the kids to harvest, gather, take inside and wash. And if you have a pet rabbit, they will be most pleased with you.
Yuck! Not my favorite, and probably not the kids either. These little red babies grow like crazy though, and it’s said if you plant them earlier in the season, they are less spicy. Many parents do like radishes, and I have seen it suggested that you can grow them and gift them off to those that do. Radishes can be scattered throughout the garden just about anywhere. They help to aerate the soil if you spread them around naturally. They are colorful and fast growers. Visually exciting, not everyone loves them, but they are fun to grow. Making anything grow, increases your gardening confidence. It’s why I plant a lot of Hostas, you can hardly kill them. Gardening confidence building 101. Grow something hard to kill.
I have not grown this in the past; however, I plan to for the first time this year. This is an ornamental variety of corn. It has small mahogany kernels and can be used as an ornamental plant, or it can be popped into popcorn. When it comes to growing a garden with kids, I am always looking for something that is visually exciting but also offers some end use that is relevant for the children. Sure we could grow onions or garlic all season long, but what is the sense in that. Even if the growing process were fun, the end result would be a thud. Visually exciting, culminating with some type of sensory excitement, that’s the goal.
Instantly recognizable by the children, easy to grow, and they are available in just about any size. Plant these with the kids at the beginning of the summer. Tell them if they eat all of their vegetables maybe they can keep up with the growth of the giant sunflower. By the end of the summer, they will have eaten all of their vegetables, but the 8ft sunflower towering over them might signal that you were lying?
What kid does not like pumpkins? You can grow them in any size. They lend themselves to all types of arts and crafts projects, as well as delicious snacks. They do however require a significant amount of room to grow. Like I said when we began, some things are just easier to buy. But, if you have space in a sunny unused sunny corner of the yard give it a try. The children will be enlightened to see just how many uses a single pumpkin can have simultaneously. Make a carved pumpkin. Scrape the inside to use for baking something delicious, and finally roast the seeds. Delicious! Why be so wasteful? The pumpkin can help children to understand what it means to be resourceful. Exciting, delicious, and a great learning tool.
Green Beans (Pole & Runner)
Green beans are great because you can grow them vertically. This is an excellent opportunity to have another prolific vegetable in the garden, but one that is very space conscious. If you choose certain types of climbing beans, you can put them on a trellis leaving ground space for other plants. Native Americans, for example, had an ingenious space saving, and useful method of growing called “Three Sisters.” (Just a fresh topic for the children.) If you have a small garden, it can be extremely productive, but it will require similar ingenuity. The good thing is, there is no such thing as failure.
And The List Goes On…………..
These are a few just to get you started. There are too many to list, it just comes down to personal preference. I didn’t even mention any of the fruits or herbs that you can grow. I would suggest throwing in a little Basil, and Mint, even better Chocolate mint, the children will love that. You can see what I mean, the possibilities are endless. Gardening with the kids is no question one of the most fulfilling experiences both for them, and for us. It’s not really what you grow, the only question is are you growing? And are they growing with you? But even if it’s a disgusting radish, or Brussels sprouts they are nourishing in the garden, it is without question be nourishing something inside of them.
Get Your Gardening Calendar here. Just input your zip code, and it will tell you exactly when to start from seed, transplant outside (aka buy a plant from a local store and plant), or when to seed outdoors. Awesome helpful tool that takes wondering when out of the equation.
Are you still worried that you will plant too early, and your plants will be destroyed by frost? Me too! There is a trick for that also. Find out when the final frost date is in your area. They keep records on this, and yes it does change. This is a helpful tool that will give you the best chance of saving your plants. Or you could gamble? It works sometimes, like gambling does!