By Emily Murphy
If you were lucky to have a garden as a child, you probably also have a treasure trove of memories that have stayed with you over the years. Maybe it’s the times you spent working side-by-side with a parent or grandparent. Perhaps it’s the fragrance of sweet pea blooms filling your senses while you played with their leafy tendrils. Whereas, maybe it’s the simple joy of planting seeds and watching them grow.
Growing a garden with children give us an opportunity to pass the joy of memories along with lessons of care and responsibility. Choose plants with larger seeds so tiny hands can wrap their fingers around and easily tuck into the soil. Grow plants that give room for exploration and fun, like pineapple sage, French sorrel, and borage. With so many to choose from, here is a list of a few easy plants to grow with kid.
Calendula petals add a wonderful shock of color and unique flavor to salads. Every child appreciates their large, pre-historic looking seeds which resemble the vertebrae of long lost animals. Add the flowers to medicinal teas and make herbal oils once they are dried. Herbal oils can then be added to homemade healing ointments, soaps, and lotions. Direct sow calendula during fall in mild climates or in spring as soon as soil can be worked. Plant it with your veggies as a companion plant and water calendula three to four times per week depending on the weather.
Known to some children as sour grass, French sorrel is a thrill to the taste buds. Its sharp, tangy flavor is unlike anything else. Like calendula, it’s a plant for grazing as much as it is for the kitchen. Sorrel is a perennial, so grow it in a container or a dedicated spot in your garden where it can come back year after year. French sorrel grows best in rich, well-draining soil and requires regular watering. Use your Flexogen Super Duty hose and Thumb Control Watering Nozzle to complete the task.
Unlike sorrel, cucumbers are milder in flavor. They are excellent producers, giving kids something to harvest nearly every visit to the garden. Their seeds are big enough for small hands to sow, while their furry leaves (and sometimes prickly fruits) are full of character. Best of all, when children grow plants like cucumbers, they’re more likely to care for them from seed to fruit. Give cucumbers rich, well-draining soil, fertilize them in mid-summer using compost or manure tea, and water them three to four times per week.
Some sunflowers grow from seeds with stripes, while others are black, white, or somewhere in between. However they come, sunflower seeds are fun to plant and even better to watch grow. It won’t be long before varieties like ‘Mammoth Russian’ are taller than anyone in the family or school. Let them self-sow from one season to the next or plant them in spring as soon as soil is ready. Tuck sunflowers in along the northern ends of beds or give them a patch all their own. Like most other kitchen garden plants, give sunflowers rich, well-draining soil and regular water.
Who doesn’t love finding red ripe strawberries hiding under leaves or cascading over the sides of containers? Strawberries are easy berries to start with because they don’t require much room and always find a way to grow. Give them rich to medium soil, lots of sun, and regular water using a garden sprinkler. If your strawberries are growing in containers, water them with a Thumb Control Watering Nozzle.
Your kids may not yet love kale, but chances are that will change once they grow it themselves. Its leaves are beautiful and often colorful, like a red Russian kale. It can be picked along with French sorrel for an easy, outdoor snack. Grow kale on the north side of sunflowers to give it shade in summer. You can also wait and plant kale in August so it grows into the cooler temperatures of fall. Kale likes rich, well-draining soil and plenty of water. One quick watering tip: if kale’s leaves become tough, it needs more frequent watering.
Nasturtiums provoke a sense of wonder. Their round, lily pad-shaped leaves and vase-shaped flowers often become the building blocks of fairy homes and make-believe play. Encourage children to use leaves in art projects to create leaf prints. Plant nasturtiums at the edge of your garden to lure aphids away from other fruits and veggies. You can also grow nasturtiums in containers where they can fill a corner with flowers. Add the spicy leaves and flowers to salads and pickle the seeds to make homemade capers. Nasturtiums like sun and tolerate part shade. Plant them in rich, well-draining soil whenever possible, and water them two to three times per week.
Like cucumbers, snap peas are excellent producers, yielding sweet, juicy pods for weeks on end. Add their shoots and flowers to salads or eat them in the garden for a quick snack. Best of all, beneath their leafy vines is a shady area to play and explore. Snap peas like the cooler temperatures of the shoulder seasons, so plant them in early spring for spring harvesting and again in late summer for fall harvesting. Give snap peas rich, well-draining soil and water them three to four times per week using your Thumb Control Watering Nozzle.
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