Children love to help in the garden — here are 10 easy-to-grow plants that will enchant them.
My husband and I don’t go on dates often. Instead, we spend our entertainment budget on heirloom seeds and enriched dirt. The first year we were married, we grew a small jungle on the apartment patio. The next year, we set up a nursery with darling wall art, a crib, and a changing table. When our baby was born, we filled the crib with seedlings and our daughter slept with us.
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After we got some yard to work with, we used all our extra money to set up a garden, learn about gardens, and buy plants. All kinds of plants. Seeds and more seeds. Products to help them grow. Tools. We’ve tried to grow almost everything.
Growing things intentionally is hard. We’re not very good at it. But we still love it. And our lives are spent out there in the dirt.
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Our children have also grown up in the dirt. Here are the top 10 plants they love to grow:
Beans have big seeds that are perfect for little hands. They grow well and quickly and are great to find and eat right off the stalk.
These teeny tiny seeds are better for sprinkling and a better fit for older kids to plant. But once established they are great fun to watch, uncover a bit, and pick caterpillars off. I don’t believe there is anything more magical or satisfying for a 5 year old than pulling up carrots out of the ground.
- Peas, shelling
First of all, peas from the garden are not even in the same food group as peas from the freezer or a can. The taste of fresh peas is to the taste of processed peas as Wonder Bread is to an artisan loaf baked this morning. So you need to grow them. Easy to plant, easy to grow, fast, and what fun! Harvest the pods and open them up to reveal a row of adorable, edible, green balls! I guarantee none will make it in the house. We grow snap and snow peas as well, but have the most fun with shelling peas.
By far the easiest common berry to grow and harvest, they are also delicious when picked ripe and sun-warm by tiny hands. “Red ones only.” Buy a few strawberry plants and watch them flower and then grow. No need to wait a long time, strawberries are a spring crop.
Goumi grows on a bush, and the berry looks like a tiny, red blueberry with a patina. They grow without much care at all (unlike most other berries) and produce hundreds if not thousands of fruits. The flowers smell awesome in spring and bring lots of pollinators, and the berries last for a lot of the summer season. I don’t know how many hours my kids and neighborhood kids have spent picking and eating goumi.
Pick whatever herbs you use in your cooking and grow them in pots on the porch or in a special spot in the garden. Many of them will just come back each year in mild places. Kids can pick leaves and smell or taste them, but the best part is that you can send your kids into the garden to get some for your cooking. This is a coveted job in our house.
A classic choice, sunflowers a big and beautiful and great fun to watch grow. Now it’s taller than the baby! Now it’s taller than me! Now it’s taller than Mom! Now it’s as high as the roof! You can watch birds enjoy the seeds and squirrels climb them, or chase them away so you can break it apart and eat them. Some children are absolutely lit up by the fine motor task of picking out the seeds.
Do people eat radishes? I don’t know, but they grow really fast and are red and quite fun to harvest. It’s perfect for the kids part of the garden because it’s done fast and great fun to pull up. Also you won’t care if they destroy it. Very cheap seeds.
My preference here is Egyptian Walking Onions because they grow well, and are fun. Cut them off as they grow to use as green onions (great chore for kids while you’re preparing food). When mature, they form little bulb clusters and then fall over, replanting themselves around your garden—‘walking.’
Another flower, cosmos plants get big and make tons of blooms for a long period of time. There are so many that I never mind if the kids want to pick them. The plants have a slightly weedy look, but they grow easily.
Photo credit: Lauren McClain