GARDENING WITH KIDS
Getting children involved with gardening at an early age is a satisfying activity for everyone involved. It is so fun to watch their enthusiasm when their gardening efforts yielded good results. Although there are many crops suitable for the young gardener, here is a “Top 10 List” of crops which are relatively easy to grow, have short growing seasons, and are fun to harvest.
Such a showy flower and perfect for a kid’s garden! Plant just one or two since they can take a lot of room.
Sunflowers will sprout in one week, become a small seedling in two weeks can be up to 2 feet all in a month!
In eight weeks, the buds will flower revealing hundreds of seed kernels. ( IMPORTANT TIP! Be sure to grow ‘confectionery’ sunflowers, the type grown for food.)
The sunflower seeds will dry naturally in the late summer sun. You can roast and salt them for snacks. The seeds are rich in protein and iron. Save a few for next summers’ planting.
Greens are a quick and reliable crop to give the kids garden fast results. And since typically kids are super proud of their garden bounty, it might server as a good way to interest kids in salads.
Lettuce likes part shade; keep soil moist especially during the first two weeks.
The seeds will germinate in 7-10 days; growing season is 40-50 days. You can grow ‘head’ (space 8″ apart) or ‘leaf’ (space 4″ apart) varieties. The leaf varieties will mature sooner, about 30-35 days. Or, grow a combination of both! Think about being able to get your own fresh lettuces every day!
Kids gardens scream for very short growing season crops, and radishes bring quick results – germinating in 3-10 days and are ready to harvest in 20-30 days.
Plant in cool weather for a mild radish, or hot weather for a hotter radish.
4. Snow Peas
Snow peas are a quick-growing early crop, and fun for kids to eat right off the vine. They take about 10 days to germinate and mature in about 60 days.
Peas prefer cooler, partially shaded locations in the garden; they should be sown closely, about 1″ apart at most. Snow peas are popular because the pod is edible and since they are a dwarf plant they can be grown without a trellis.
5. Cherry Tomatoes
These may be the most fun crop for a child, aside from strawberries. Plant in full sun and use seedlings rather than planting from seed. Put in a 2′ stake alongside each seedling; they need to be tied loosely to stakes as they get taller. Add lots of compost. Water at ground level, trying to keep leaves dry. Growing season is 50-75 days. Cherry tomatoes can also be grown in containers.
These flowers are easy to grow and yield results quickly, which encourages the young gardener. Nasturtiums bloom about 50 days after the seeds are planted, with orange, yellow and red flowers. They prefer sunny, dry locations and do well in poor soil. Choose the shorter varieties for garden beds. Nasturtiums are also pest resistant, which ensures a successful planting. The flowers are also edible, and can be used to add color to a fresh garden salad.
7. Bush Beans
Fast, easy, high yield and, because they do not grow tall, they are easy for kids to harvest. Bush beans germinate in 4-8 days, and mature in 40-65 days. It’s best to plant a small patch, then another in a few weeks. This will extend the harvest. When choosing seeds, select the “low bush” varieties because these will be easier for children to harvest. Plant closely spaced, about 4″ apart. Grow in direct sun; water the soil but try to keep the leaves dry. Bush beans don’t need poles or trellises to grow.
Carrot seeds can be sown directly into soil and prefer cooler temperatures. They can be slow to germinate, so be patient. Carrots will mature in about 60 days.The soil should be free of rocks and easy for the carrot to grow ‘down’. Keep well-watered and thin to every 3″ because crowding will produce foliage but no root. Small varieties are recommended for children, as they’re easier to grow and more fun to eat.
A ‘never-fail’ crop, you can plant red or white potato varieties with equal success, though red will mature faster. Children seem to favor this variety. Cut seed potatoes into chunks with at least two ‘eyes’ per chunk. Plant in furrows, about 12-15″ apart, with eyes pointing upward. Mound soil up around plant as it grows; harvest when plant collapses.
A ‘must’ for a child’s garden, pumpkins are worth the extra space they take if you have the room. Plant seeds in a small hill; poke three holes in the hill and put one seed in each hole. Seeds will sprout in about one week; after a few days, vine leaves begin to form and creep along the ground. Once there are three pumpkins on the vine, pick off any new blossoms. Pumpkins take 80 – 120 days to harvest: it’s ready when it feels hard on the outside and sounds hollow when tapped. Let an adult supervise the cutting, using shears. Seeds can be dried to eat, or save for future planting. The meat can be used for pies, and the pumpkin for carving.