Watching my kids faces when they see the first ripe strawberry of the season or they bite into crunchy snowpeas in the spring gives me such a happy feeling. My kids have been included in our garden since they were babies. My son got his own garden plot at 2 and this year my daughter will get hers. They help me in the big gardens as well and they love watching for ripe pumpkins and melons out in the field.
My son told me one day that one of his friends at school said she hated tomatoes and he said he told her that she just needed to grow her own tomatoes and eat them fresh and then she would love them. Gardening is a great way for children to learn where their food comes from and the work that goes into producing food. It teaches them life skills, piques their curiosity and they feel a real sense of pride when they are harvesting and eating something they grew. It is also a great way to start a conversation about healthy eating choices.
For me what makes gardening successful with kids is growing foods that interest or excite them, lots of quick growing foods and picking easy to grow varieties so that they can have some autonomy over their plots. The past 2 years my son has picked everything that has gone into his garden and most things have been successful and a few things not. He and I had a discussion about this recently and this our list of 10 top foods to grow in kids gardens!
Ok, so these take all season to grow but they are fun and my kids love them! They are very productive and need no special treatment. We have had good luck with Sayamusume and just 3-4 plants produce a few Ziploc bags full. We steam them and eat them as snacks and to be honest some of them don’t make it to the steaming…
Probably the easiest fruit to grow. My kids eat strawberries straight from the plant until they are literally sick of them. Again, strawberries need very little care and they multiply very quickly with their runners which means you can have quite a patch after just a couple of seasons. They can also very easily and successfully be grown in pots. There are 2 general types of strawberries – everbearing and June bearing. Everbearing strawberries produce throughout the growing season and produce less runners. June bearing produce just for a few weeks in June but they produce very heavily in that time (everbearing do not produce very heavily at a given time) and send out many runners. We grow both varieties and we like our June bearing as they produce very well and big berries but both types definitely have their merits!
My kids love snow peas! We plant them in the garden just after the ground has thawed so that in itself is a draw. They grow vigorously and they produce heavily. They are one of the first vegetables ready for harvest and the kids just pick them off the vine and eat them right there. When they are in full production they need to be picked every day or every other day, that doesn’t seem to be a problem in our house! Our favourite variety is Oregon Giant, they don’t have to be trellised but we do trellis ours and find that makes harvesting easier.
My kids love rainbow carrots, they love pulling the carrots to see what colours they get. And really what kid doesn’t love crunching on a fresh carrot from the garden? Check my blog post about growing carrots for my top tips.
These are super fast growing greens. Kids love them because they grow so fast and you can harvest them for quite awhile. They are meant to be grown quite densely and can be grown in containers as well. There are all kinds and colours.
Pumpkins are a favourite around here. The traditional Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins are great but trying heirloom varieties are really fun. So many shapes, colours and sizes. Our favourite varieties are: Rouge Vif D’Etampes, Marine Di Chioggia and Galeux D’Eysines. We are trying a lot of new varieties this year and some giant pumpkins. Pumpkins do require good fertilizer, consistent watering and space. As well as a very sunny location. We grow our pumpkins in hills that are 2-3 feet wide and filled with compost. We cover these hills with black plastic to heat the soil, prevent weed growth and reduce mold in the fruit that lies on the ground.
We grow a lot of tomatoes and the kids love Cherry tomatoes. They are pretty forgiving as far as tomatoes go. They don’t have to be pruned and they ripen early and just keep producing throughout the season. My kids enjoy the Bubmblebee cherry tomatoes. There are a few different colours but they are all striped and are a good size.
Digging for buried treasure! What kid doesn’t like to do that? Potatoes are easy to grow, yes, you can get technical but really they grow pretty easily and can be gown in potato bags or deep pots as well. We often rob our hills for awhile at the beginning of the season and the kids think that is so fun.
We grow watermelons, honeydew melons and cantaloupe. There is nothing like a fresh melon, we sometimes bring a cutting board and knife out into the garden and eat them right there. The kids are so delighted when the melons start to ripen and its pure joy on their faces when they take those first bites. Melons do require lots of space, lots of compost, consistent watering and lots of sun just like pumpkins.
Need I say more? My kids crunch down on cucumbers all summer long, they can’t get enough of these things! Cucumbers really need good fertile soil – lots of compost! They like heat and they like lots of water. Cucumbers can be trellised or they can be grown along the ground. If you are short on space, try Patio Snacker but if you have some space try Calypso these cucumbers are actually a pickling cuke but they are great for eating and produce like crazy.