I have not met a kid who didn’t like to play in the dirt. Kids are naturally curious and the wild jungle of a flower bed or patio planter is like new undiscovered territory for them. You will want your kids’ first gardening experiences to be positive as their enthusiasm for future gardening endeavors will likely depend on how rewarding and enjoyable their first adventures are. To make this easier, I’ve made a list of some fun and easy garden plants for kids and beginners to grow.
These easy garden plants will encourage a child’s use of all five senses… to smell the flowers, feel the leaves, eat the veggies, hear the bees, and see all the different colours, patterns and shapes. So go ahead, and help make gardening exciting for your kids!
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12 easy plants for gardening with kids
1. Snow Peas
Pea plants will easily grow from seed and quickly offer heaps of sweet green peas to eat. Keep them out of the direct hot sun and provide them with some sort of climbing support. Kids will love to pick the fat green pods and eat the peas right there in the garden.
Our favorite variety of peas are these yummy sweet sugar snap peas. We find these are tasty right off the vine.
2. Salad greens
There is an over-abundance of salad green options for the backyard gardener these days. I tend to pick a mixed pack so that we can enjoy a variety of shapes, colours, and tastes. It can be a challenge for kids to space the tiny lettuce seeds out, just pick and harvest in a way that helps open up space between the plants. If slugs are a problem, try growing these in a patio planter away from the garden plot.
If you’re like me and have a hard time deciding, I suggest trying a variety of greens like lettuce, spinach, kale, swiss chard, kale. Swiss chard is a favourite of mine and I sometimes plant it with my flowers because the colorful stems are so beautiful!
Our kids love mint plants. They pick the leaves to chew on while outside in the yard and enjoy adding a few leaves to their water glasses for a ‘very-special-fancy’ drink. There is a wide variety of mint flavors to choose from. Last year we bought pineapple mint, chocolate mint, and peppermint starter plants from the greenhouse because they all smelled so wonderful that we just couldn’t decide which one to choose. These plants will grow easily, and may even surprise you by coming back again next year (perennially).
To be honest, I don’t find the potato plant that exciting, but our kids love to dig up and hunt for potatoes during harvest. So, I think this is why they always choose to put a few in their garden space. Growing potatoes can be extra fun if you grow a purple or blue variety. Not only are the outsides a deep purple, but the flesh of the potato is purple too! You could have purple mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving next year!
These giants are a must in the kids’ garden. The bees love them for pollen and the birds love when they’re in seed. Kids love them because the giant varieties can grow to be huge, towering up to 6, 7, even 10 feet! There are numerous varieties of sunflowers to choose from. In the fall, leave the flowers in the garden so birds can dine on their seeds or cut the flower heads off and nail them to the garden fence for squirrels to partake in as well.
Strawberry plants will spread and multiply in a garden, so you may want to keep them in their own planter or separate garden plot. The sweet red juicy berries are a favourite of kids, also of garden critters, so make sure you pick them when they’re ready (or fence them in if needed) otherwise all the creatures in the neighbourhood will be enjoying your strawberries too.
Kids will get quick satisfaction with radish seeds. The radish will sprout and grow so quickly that within a few weeks of planting, they could be biting into their very first garden crop; although, if your children are like mine, they won’t have a second bite! Even though my kids don’t eat the radishes, their speedy growth and colour variations are exciting and a good addition to the kids’ garden.
Okay, this one needs a lot of space, but if you have the space, kids will absolutely love to grow their own Halloween pumpkins. These squash grow easily from seed and it’s fun to watch the tendrils explore and spread over the garden. Maybe, with luck, your kids could be providing the Thanksgiving pumpkin pie along with the mashed potatoes!
These flowers have bright yellow and orange edible blossoms on a vigorous bushy or climbing plant. The nasturtium flower has a strong pepper taste. Kids will enjoy adding these to salads and daring their friends to eat them. We also love that nasturtiums attracts pollinators and hummingbirds to our garden. These are good plants for learning about seed harvesting. After the flowers have bloomed, hard round seed pods will form. Collect these pods and plant them again next year. Nasturtiums will grow easily in both the garden and in patio planters.
The frilly tops of carrots are a unique shape in the garden that kids can enjoy. However, it is the sweet surprise under the soil that kids will really love. In fact, I’ve had the neighborhood kids raid my carrot patch on more than one occasion. They’re so eager to eat those fresh carrots that they just wipe the dirt off with their hands and chow down! Carrots come in a fun assortment of colours too: yellow, orange, white, and purple.
11. Cherry tomatoes
Tomatoes are generally easy plants to grow if you get them as smaller plants from the nursery. Some plants will produce huge double fist sized tomatoes on large bushy plants. However, it’s the small cherry or grape tomato varieties that kids will enjoy the most. These smaller tomatoes are born on smaller plants which can even be grown in patio planters. When my little guy first started venturing into the garden I had a hard time persuading him not to eat the little green tomatoes and I would find these half eaten fruit scattered all throughout the garden.
12. Sensitive plant
I add this one because it is such a fun plant, not because we’ve grown it in our garden. I have read that gardeners, in warmer climates, have had great success in growing these from seeds. But starting with a seedling might mean better success. These entertaining plants will fold up their leaves when touched, then slowly unfold again… leading to lots of curious finger probing and exploring. I encountered these sensitive plants growing in Cuba and I couldn’t resist sitting down and playing with the plant’s sensitive leaves as well as pointing out the plant to all passers-by.
So there you have it: 12 super easy garden plants for your kids (or you) to try in your own garden. By choosing a few of these plants you and your family are sure to have some gardening success this growing season!
What should you do now?
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- Read 6 top tips for making garden play fun when gardening with preschoolers