By Cindy Naas
Part of the motivation for putting in a vegetable garden in my city garden was to show my children how their food grows.
I wanted to pass down the my father’s love of gardening to my sons, and so I have always made sure that each child gets to grow something every summer.
It’s amazing, too, how quickly a child who hates veggies will gobble down a plate of green beans if he grows them himself. Growing veggies can be good for your child for so many reasons.
Here are a few good choices for teaching beginning gardeners how to grow things they can enjoy:
1. Radishes- these germinate quickly, a real benefit for younger children. Waiting for the first sprouts to appear can be difficult for kids, but radishes produce sprouts in only a few days if kept properly watered.
2. Carrots- these also sprout quickly, and carrots are very sweet when eaten fresh from the garden. I have yet to meet a child who doesn’t enjoy a freshly picked carrot.
3. Strawberries- these take a bit more room if you have a dedicated bed. However, you can grow tasty sweet berries in planters, too. I avoid putting strawberries in strawberry pots because of the difficulty of keeping them watered, but growing berries in long planting boxes or in large pots works really well. I have two varieties growing for my youngest child- a small intensely sweet berry which ripens in early summer, and a larger one which produces berries all summer long. My youngest child enjoys going out early in the morning with his cereal bowl and picking his ripest berries into his cereal. It really doesn’t get much better than that!
4. Pumpkins- I know that pumpkins take up a lot of room. However, I have grown them in large planters trellised up a fence with spectacular results. Growing pumpkins is a lot of fun for children, they love to watch them mature. The anticipation of using the larger pumpkins for Halloween is wonderful for children. If you are really pressed for space, you can grow the small pie pumpkins instead. Those will give you food as well as a nice neat smaller pumpkin perfect for making a smaller Jack’o’lantern.
5. Green beans- beans take a bit longer to sprout but the size of the new sprout is quite dramatic. The beans then produce beautiful flowers, and finally, the beans seem to grow larger almost by the minute when they are maturing. Beans are also fun to pick, and many children enjoy eating them raw.
6. Sunflowers- these cheery flowers are a terrific flower to grow for many reasons. You can dry the entire seed head, something birds will appreciate in the winter. The flowers themselves are so fun and happy- some of my neighbors look forward to my sunflowers each year and once when I decided to plant something else and skip the sunflowers, even the newspaper delivery boy was disappointed.
7. Cherry tomatoes- these are my children’s favorites. The small clusters of tomatoes are pretty and each child can grab a handful to eat right off the vine during tomato season. It’s funny that the part of our yard where we grow tomatoes is always the favorite place to play when there are ripe tomatoes available!