Top Easy and Low-Cost Veggies and Berries That Kids Can Grow
Gardening for Kids
Gardening for kids is in many ways similar to gardening for beginners. Kids need something that grows fast and requires minimal care. This way, they will stay motivated throughout the whole growing season and won't have to be disappointed by their harvest.
Since kids tend to have fairly short attention spans, it's also a good idea to pick something that germinates fast. Once kids see their seed emerge from under the soil, they will be more eager to continue caring for it and watching it grow. An alternative is to buy seedlings from your local grocery store or garden shop, but I think that this takes away from the whole 'growing something from seed to table' experience that kids love.
When selecting plants for kids to grow, try to go for something that doesn't really need any care aside from watering and fertilizing occasionally. This will keep kids occupied without making them overwhelmed.
Below are some suggestions of veggies (and a berry too!) to try growing with your kids, along with reasons why they're a good choice. This list can also be used by beginners who'd like to have a successful first growing season.
Things You'll Need
Below is a concise list of things you need to have to ensure for a smooth first-time experience for kids!
- Seeds (or seedlings)
- Potting mix (or regular soil)
- Pots/ containers (or space in the ground)
- Popsicle sticks and a Sharpie (for labeling)
- Watering can (a hose would come in handy when the plants grow a bit)
- Plant food (the simplest and most general kind works fine)
- Simple gardening tools (trowel, weeder, and a mini rake for evening out the soil)
Top Easy, Low-Cost Veggies (and Berries) Kids Can Grow!
Why: Radishes are probably the easiest and quickest veggie plants to grow. There are varieties that germinate in a matter of days (mine usually take two to three days) and they are ready to harvest in less than a month. Radish seeds aren't too small, so they're not so difficult to handle by little hands. In addition, very minimal care is required when growing radishes. It's just necessary to water them frequently during hot weather and thin out the weaker plants.
How to grow: Since radishes are so quick to grow, the best way to to grow them is from seeds. If you want them to germinate faster, a suggestion is to leave the seeds in a wet cloth or tissue overnight prior to planting. Plant the seeds in a sunny location, around 4–5 cm apart (or just follow the instructions on the seed pouch). Water from a watering can (or use a sprinkler) when the soil seems dry.
Culinary uses: Radishes are great in salads or as a snack on their own.
Why: The main reason is because they're delicious and a berry that kids tend to love! The strawberry season is also early in the summer, so they can be a great first crop for kids to harvest. Strawberries can be a super simple way to add something healthy to a number of snacks that kids love and they can also be frozen for later.
How to grow: Strawberries are the only item on this list that I would recommend growing from seedlings. While they can be grown from seeds and I have done that before, this method takes much longer for them to sprout and there are no berries the first year, which can be a huge disappointment for kids. Seedlings are available in grocery stores and garden shops from early to late spring and the plants can be replanted directly into your garden. Strawberries are perennials, so they'll keep providing delicious berries for years to come! The only care that strawberry plants need is water and fertilizer.
Culinary uses: Eat them as a snack or a fruit salad. There are numerous pie and cake recipes that use strawberries. Strawberry rhubarb pie is a great example. You can also prepare smoothies and milkshakes with your berries or use them as toppings for yogurts and ice cream. Strawberries can also be frozen and enjoyed in the winter months.
Why: Potatoes grow fast and they're super fun to plant. Instead of having to sow seeds, you just need to plant pieces of already existent potatoes that have an 'eye' on them. It is also to grow these veggies in bags or containers, which makes them a great option for a balcony garden or a yard with limited space. When the potatoes are ready to harvest, many kids enjoy going on a mini 'scavenger hunt' to uncover all of the freshly grown potatoes!
How to grow: You'll need to have some store-bought potatoes on hand first. My favorite types to grow are nugget potatoes and red potatoes, but you can choose whatever variety you prefer/have on hand. Then you'll need to cut each potato into a number of pieces that correspond to the number of eyes that it has. Potato eyes are small growths on the surfaces of potatoes that may resemble something like a small root. Each piece that you plant needs to have one of those eyes on it.
Plant the potato pieces with the eyes facing down. They can be planted directly into the garden or a pot or even a bag. Cover your newly planted potatoes with some dirt and wait for a stem and leaves to appear. Potato eyes tend to take a while to sprout (around a month in some cases), so I usually plant mine at the beginning of the season and forget about them for some time. Once they do germinate, however, potato plants grow quite quickly.
Culinary uses: Potatoes are a staple in North American cuisine, so there are numerous uses for them. Some common recipes with potatoes include mashed potatoes, French fries, hash browns, salads and pot pies. For the beauty enthusiasts out there, you may want to consider using potato juice as a face rinse since it helps to get rid of dark spots.
Why: Bean seeds are huge when compared to those of some other vegetable plants. This makes them easy to handle, especially for the younger kids. Just like the other veggies mentioned in this list, growing beans is super easy and they are fast growers. The only care that is required apart from watering and feeding is to install a support pole (and some string as well if desired) for the plants to vine as they grow. This can actually be done at the very start since the bean plants later can just adapt to the poles. Beans are also really fun to harvest since there often are many pods for the kids to collect.
How to grow: My suggestion is to leave the seeds in a wet cloth/tissue overnight (or for two to three days) since this will allow the seeds to sprout faster and keep your kids' attention spans occupied. Following this method, the first leaves will begin to appear around four to six days after planting the seeds. You should plant the seeds around 3 cm deep (approximately 1–1.5 inches).
Culinary uses: Add to main dishes; salads; baked beans.
Why: When it comes to growing them, peas are quite similar to beans. The seeds are easy to handle, the plants grow fast and they are also of a vining nature. In addition to all of this, peas can be eaten raw, which makes them the perfect summer snack for your kids. Even children that hate eating veggies usually have a different opinion about eating veggies that they themselves planted and grew.
How to grow: Once again, the process is quite similar to growing beans. Soaking the seeds overnight or for a couple of days will help them to sprout faster and keep your kids excited. In fact, you can even let your kids do the soaking part themselves and after a few days, they'll be able to see a mini root begin to emerge from the seed.
Pea seeds should be planted around 3–4 cm deep and at that time you can install poles and optionally also tie some string to the tops of them if you'd like. The first leaves will emerge after four to six days after planting.
Culinary uses: Eat them raw as a snack or use in salads. It's also to roast them with some spices to make a crunchy snack.
Why: The main reason I added sunflowers to this list is because of how easy it is to grow them and kids usually like having something bright in their garden. Sunflowers are beautiful to observe and some varieties grow to be quite tall, perhaps even taller than your kid! In addition, sunflower seeds are edible, although not all children like them.
How to grow: Sunflower seeds are large in size and are very easy to handle. If you want them to sprout faster, it's a good idea to soak the seeds overnight, just like the beans and the peas. Sunflowers should be grown in a sunny location and it needs to be a place where they won't be prevented from growing up. Apart from that, it's just necessary to water them and add fertilizer from time to time and just enjoy observing the gorgeous flowers!
Culinary uses: Sunflower seeds can be roasted and enjoyed as a delicious snack or added to a variety of salads.
Why: Even though pumpkins aren't fast growers, Halloween and pumpkin carving has always been something that kids love. It's fun to go to the pumpkin patch and pick out the perfect future jack-o-lantern, but growing one at home is even more fulfilling. Kids can watch their pumpkins grow throughout the summer and early fall and then harvest and carve them. This way, there may even be several pumpkins for them to carve. The flesh can be used to prepare some delicious recipes.
How to grow: Depending on the variety, pumpkins require around 100 days to be ready to harvest. If you're planning on planting pumpkins just for culinary uses, then you can sow them in mid-May to the beginning of June. However, if you'd like to harvest your pumpkins just in time for Halloween carving, then planting your seeds in mid-July is the best option. Pumpkin seeds are of average size, so they shouldn't be difficult for children to handle. The seeds should be sown around 2–3 cm deep. Plant your pumpkins in a sunny location. Pumpkin plants require a lot of water during hot weather and it's a good idea to fertilize them weekly in order to make sure that you get large pumpkins in the end.
Culinary uses: Halloween carving; seeds can be roasted and enjoyed as a snack; pumpkin pie, soups.
Why: Similarly to radishes, lettuce grows very fast and can also be consumed prior to maturity. For example, when making a salad, you can take the largest two to three leaves from several of your lettuce plants and let the rest keep growing. In good weather, lettuce seeds only take a few days to sprout and around 1–1.5 months to full maturity. However, as mentioned earlier, leaves can be harvested throughout the growing process.
Growing their own salad will make your kids want to taste it and they will eat more greens without extra reminders from you. They may even get so hooked on it that they'll begin begging you to buy them more seeds to plant again!
How to grow: Lettuce seeds are small, but thankfully they aren't picky. You can just sprinkle the seeds in the desired growing area (make sure to water the soil first) and then cover them with dirt. The seeds should germinate within a week. Make sure that you pick a sunny location.
An option for the younger kids is to buy a roll-out lettuce kit and just roll it out in your garden like you would with a sleeping bag. Remember to keep the ground well-watered and the seeds will sprout in a matter of days. I personally prefer this method because the seeds are already evenly spaced and the planting process is extremely fast.
However, when I intend to grow a larger batch of lettuce, then I use seed packets. The main reason for this is the cost-benefit. Roll-out lettuces and other veggie kits are good for kids and beginners who are gardening mostly for fun, but when it comes to trying to be mostly self-sustainable, the cost-effectiveness of each method needs to be considered first.
Culinary uses: Eat on its own as a snack or use as a main ingredient for a number of different types of salads.
Buy Your Roll-Out Lettuce Kit on Amazon
Gardening can be fun for people of any age and ability. The quarantine showed us that this hobby can be picked up by anyone and it's an amazing way to pass the time while enjoyed the outdoors.
Gardening with kids involves following a few recommendations in order to keep them interested and motivated. The plants described in this post are super easy to plant and take care of, but there definitely are tons of other veggies, herbs and flowers that are entertaining to grow.
If you're a beginner gardener or if you'd like to introduce your kids to this wonderful pastime, try out the eight plants I suggested above and see how it goes. I'm sure that next year you'll have dozens of different plants growing in your garden!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Janisa