If you’ve got a little sprout that’s interested in gardening, you can help encourage that curiosity by helping them learn to grow their favorite veggies. Homegrown veggies taste so good, they’ll go nuts for them and eat straight from the garden! If you’ve never grown a vegetable before, don’t worry. You don’t need to have a green thumb, or even know much about gardening, to help your children grow a kid-friendly vegetable garden.
The best plants to help kids develop a passion for gardening are ones that require very little maintenance and produce “snackable” edible plants quickly. Here are 5 of our favorite kid-friendly vegetables to grow in your North Carolina garden.
Carrots are super easy to grow. They’re a cool-season crop, so should be planted in early spring, around mid-February. The seeds are quite tiny, so you may need to help small hands plant these. If they get a whole bunch of seeds in one place, just spread them out gently with your fingertips so that they’re not too close together. You can usually start to pluck out a few baby carrots to snack on about eight weeks from planting. Carrots can also be grown in containers; just make sure it’s a minimum of one foot deep.
It’s easier to get tasty tomatoes from the cherry and grape tomato plants compared to the larger tomatoes. With their tiny size, they ripen much faster and kids can snack on them right in the garden. Also since they ripen so quickly, you have less chance of typical tomato diseases setting in before you get a good crop.
Beans and Sugar Snap Peas
Beans take a little longer to grow, but they can be tons of fun for kids. If your child is familiar with “Jack and the Beanstalk,” growing real-life magic beans is a fun way to bring the fairy tale to life! Climbing beans, like scarlet runner beans, are especially popular with kids because they grow fast enough over a structure to create a little secret hiding space. Creating a simple tent or teepee structure with string and stakes, and planting beans around the outside of it will soon give them a little fort in the garden, complete with ready-to-eat snacks later in the season. Sugar snaps can be planted in mid-February and beans should be planted around the beginning of April here in North Carolina.
Lettuce is another super-fast grower that kids can snack on within weeks of planting. Lettuce is also a cool-season crop that will do best in the early spring or late fall. Because it has shallow roots, you can easily grow lettuce in small containers or in the ground. You can even grow lettuce inside near a sunny window! Seeding a new batch of lettuce every two weeks will give you fresh salad greens all season long. Some varieties of lettuce can be ready to eat as soon as three weeks after seeding. Many varieties are “cut and come again”. You take the outermost leaves and the innermost leaves continue growing.
Cucumbers are another fun climbing plant for kids. Most kids love cucumbers, and they’re easy to grow as long as you give them lots of sunshine, water, and something to climb. You can also grow cucumbers in a pot as long as they have a trellis, but they will require frequent watering. The one thing about cucumbers is that they need both male and female flowers to pollinate correctly, which both grow on the same plant! It’s always a good idea to grow more than one cucumber plant for increased chances for cross-pollination. For the best harvest, give your child a small clean paintbrush and have them gently “tickle” the cucumber flowers on each plant every few days to help pollinate them. You can start planting cucumbers outdoors in mid-April. Try the Baby Hybrid and the Gherking cukes for kids!
Encouraging your kids’ curiosity about gardening and growing doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated. Choose a couple of their favorite veggies and watch as their appreciation for plant-based food grows before your eyes!