In this time of garden dreaming, you may be dreaming of a child’s garden as well, whether it’s for your own family or for a school or childcare centre. Or perhaps your budding gardeners are asking for their own copy of the seed catalogue. There are many starter seeds for kids out there, and some of them are particularly exciting for children. What should you choose for your child’s garden?
What do they like to eat?
Just as you would in your own garden, what your children plant will be determined by what they like to eat. Some very child-friendly plants are:
• Peas and Beans
Children are generally fascinated by the hunt for peas and beans, and since peas are a cooler season crop and beans come later, you don’t need much space if you’d like to grow both. Peas are also sweet and fun to shell! Just for fun, look at colourful varieties of beans.
• Holiday Foods
Plant crops that are connected to particular holidays. How about some strawberries for a Canada Day picnic, or some pumpkins for Halloween?
What’s fascinating to grow?
Strawberries are all about anticipation. They grow and grow, and then they turn red, and one day they are ripe. They also make baby strawberry plants. All of these facts give them great kid cachet.
Kids can’t get enough of carrots. In fact, it’s good to grow extra carrots because they’ll be constantly poking at the soil and covertly digging them up to see how big the carrots are. Choose carrots with a short growing season for this reason. And really, what tastes better than a fresh-from-the-soil carrot? It’s nothing like store bought.
• Unusual Vegetables
If you have the space, look at vegetables that you might not usually consider to be child-friendly as well. Many children haven’t eaten kohlrabi, but they might just give it a try when they see that the plants look like miniature UFOs.
What’s easy to grow?
Choose crops that can be sowed directly into the garden, such as peas, beans, and carrots. If you’re looking for an easy crop, lettuce grows quickly in the cool season or in shadier areas, as do other leafy greens like mizuna. Sow lettuce every week or two if you have the space, and you’ll be able to harvest it consistently over time. If your child has a tiny garden, choose “cut and come again” varieties that will survive a trim.
What might expand your child’s palate?
Aside from learning about how plants grow and where food comes from, one of the reasons parents like to grow food is so that their children will eat it! Three palate-expanding vegetables for children’s gardens are:
These little onions are mild enough to appeal to kids, they’re good for snacking, and they may just get your children to a new level of onion-tolerance.
If you have a warm corner, put in a pot of cherry tomatoes. Like carrots, the taste of a fresh, warm, and ripe cherry tomato is nothing like the taste of store-bought tomatoes in January. If you want to turn your kids onto tomatoes, these are the ones to grow. Get indeterminate varieties for a consistent snacking crop.
Like carrots, beets are fascinating because they are root vegetables. Grow varieties like Chioggia – the white and dark pink stripes are a great sales pitch for reluctant eaters.
If you can, give your children a little bit of space to grow a garden. It can be a planter box, a corner of a community garden plot, or a part of your own garden. By growing food today, your children can explore the ins and outs of growing food and discover what they like to grow – and eat.