Gardening with kids is no fun when the seeds you plant just won’t grow. Starting plants from seeds can be a tricky business. Without the right soil, light, and humidity, it can be hard to start seeds successfully. When you add kids to the mix, it only gets harder.
Most kids are naturally quite interested in gardening from a young age, especially if they know they’ll be able to eat the fruits of their labour later on. Gardens can help kids connect to the world around them in a way few other activities do. But kids can also be a huge challenge to the family garden. Between overenthusiastic watering, curious fingers, and careless feet, the fragile little seedlings you struggle so hard to bring to life often seemed doomed before they’ve even had a chance to begin. What’s a parent to do?
Picking the right plants
One of the easiest ways to guarantee success in the garden is to start with the right seeds. What you choose depends somewhat on the ages and abilities of your children. For younger children, sturdy, fast growing varieties of common vegetables and flowers provide the best entertainment value and guarantee that there will be something new to see in the garden almost every day. Don’t forget to choose seed varieties that are suitable to your region and to the amount of sunlight your garden patch will receive.
Here are three great performers for kid-friendly gardens.
Beans come in all sorts of shapes, colours, and varieties. Many make for delicious eating, and all are relatively fast growing and fairly sturdy. Beans sprout quickly, satisfying even the most impatient young gardener, and they provide ample room for discussion with their long vines that are willing to climb almost any trellis or pole, their delicate little flowers, and of course the fuzzy little dangling bean pods and the beans hiding inside them. Pole beans grow very quickly and can have impressively large leaves and beans. It’s fun to measure the bean’s daily growth against your child’s own height on a daily basis. With some varieties, there will be several inches of growth each day. Bush beans lack the spectacular growth rate of the pole varieties, but they are sturdy, produce well, and make excellent container plants.
Most people think of sunflowers as those large, leggy plants that grow over your head, but there are a huge range of varieties available these days, and all of them are highly appealing. Small, fuzzy teddy bear sunflowers produce short, sturdy stalks barely a foot high with lovely puffy balls of yellow fur on the end. Russet sunflowers aren’t yellow at all but a dark rusty brown that looks lovely in an autumn garden and provides seeds for birds. Traditional sunflowers come in all heights, from a few feet to over a dozen, and the flower heads can range from a couple of inches to over a foot across. The smaller varieties do just fine without support, but the larger ones may need to be staked or tied to a fence, particularly if you are in a windy area.
Peas are pretty. Quick to sprout, relatively fast growing, and with many leaves developing on their sturdy stalks, they provide instant gratification almost from the first day. Once they’ve grown a little, their delicate-looking flowers are a joy to see, and the pea pods follow shortly thereafter. Sweet peas are fun to pick and shell, the little peas packed densely in the pod like, well, peas in a pod. Snow peas are another fun variety, their flat, wide pea pods easy to find among the leaves, and they are delicious eaten right off the vine. Peas do need some form of support as they grow, but they won’t grow very high – 18 to 24 inches or so is typical – and they’ll be spent about the same time your child is tired of eating them.