Gardening with children can be one of the most rewarding experiences for both the child and their parents or mentors. Children are natural gardeners - they are curious, learn by doing, and love to play in the dirt.
Working together in the garden can provide hours of quality time each week and encourages a child’s interest in the workings of nature and science, experiencing the cycles of life first hand. Giving a child their own space teaches responsibility and allows for creativity and a sense of pride in producing food or growing a bounty of wildflowers. As an added bonus, the whole family ends up with fresh food and a new appreciation of vegetables.
Vegetable gardening can be especially rewarding for younger children. A lot of vegetable seeds are larger and easier for small hands to handle; they usually germinate in a shorter time and produce edible results within a single season. They can also be grown in pots if there is not yard space available. There are many varieties of vegetables developed especially for pots or small spaces. April is a good month for a visit to the garden center – everything you need for seed starting is in along with staff to help with all your questions.
Tips for Gardening with Children
- Give them their own space - either raised beds, pots, or ground plots- make sure each child has their own space.
- Keep it small - a smaller space is more manageable and everything seems larger through a child’s eyes. Start small and increase with age and interest.
- Placement in the best possible spot - near the action, in the best sun and (prepared) soil, will optimize success.
- Use serious tools and work gloves - cheap plastic tools break and frustrate the new gardener.
- Engage kids in the entire process from seed to table.
Edible Plant Suggestions
- Broccoli - Try Minaret, it looks like tiny spiral towers and tastes delicious.
- Brussels Sprouts - Fun to harvest, easy to grow, try ‘Valiant’ for excellent flavor.
- Carrot - Thumbelina and Little Finger are cute, snacking varieties.
- Chard - Bright Lights and Rainbow will brighten up the vegetable garden.
- Corn - Try Bodacious, Precocious (early), Kandy Corn, Zea Mays (ornamental).
- Cucumber - Great for trellising and a crowd-pleaser.
- Dill - Tall and feathery, has great taste and smell.
- Fennel - Yummy leaves and seeds, attracts beneficial insects.
- Gourd - Try Swan, Caveman’s Club, Autumn Wings for interesting shapes.
- Lettuce - Easy to grow nearly year round and best when cut fresh from the garden.
- Pineapple Sage- Smells sweet, attracts hummingbirds.
- Peas - Sugar Snap and Cascade are great for cooking and snacking.
- Potato - Blue and Cranberry Red varieties are delightful excuses for playing in the dirt.
- Pumpkin - Try smaller varieties like Baby Boo, Jack Be Little, and Fairy Tale.
- Squash - Flying Saucer, Starship, 8-Ball, and Sunburst all have great shapes.
- Strawberry - Alpine, Seascape, Hood are delicious and abundant producers.
- Sunflower - Plant edible seed varieties like Arikara.
- Tomato - Bite size Cherry, Yellow Pear, and Grape are sweet and popular with kids.
- Calendula - Edible, sure bloomer.
- Marigold - Aromatic, easy to grow from seed.
- Pansy - Cute little flowers, easy to grow, lots of color variation.
- Salvia - Attracts butterflies & hummingbirds with tasty nectar and bright colors.
- Snapdragons - Fun dragon mouths that open and close when squeezed.
- Sunflower - Huge and captivating, attracts birds, has edible seeds, and easy to grow. Try: Teddy Bear, Giant Sungold, Big Smile.
- Strawflower (Helichrysum bracteatum) - Fun shapes and great as a dried flower.
- Sweet Peas- Smell sweet and easy to grow.
- Zinnia - Wonderfully bright array of colors.
- Monarda Bee Balm - Bright flowers attract hummingbirds/butterflies.
- Cosmos atrosanguinens Chocolate Cosmos - velvety black-red with chocolate smell.
- Coreopsis - Feathery foliage and continuous golden flowers.
- Echinacea - Has an intriguing texture to its center, blooms summer till fall.
- Gaillardia - Loads of daisy-like flowers in warm colors all summer long.
- Leucanthemum Daisy - A classic in the garden.
- Delphinium - Intense shades of blue, tall and whimsical.
- Stachys byzantina Lamb’s ears - Very soft and true to its name.
- Lavendula Lavender – Lovely, calming scent, attracts wildlife, drought tolerant.
- Poppies - Provides great color, easy to grow, Icelandic Mix & Oriental varieties.
- Kniphofia Red Hot Pokers - Huge colorful flower stalks, drought resistant.