Monday, November 24, 2008

Five Tips for Growing Edibles with Children

This month's Garden Bloggers' Design Workshop at Gardening Gone Wild is on Edibles in the Garden. While I am primarily a flower gardener, I do grow edibles in a dedicated vegetable plot, as well as in my mixed borders and containers. Given the size of my suburban lot, I cannot expect to grow enough to feed my family, but what I do grow is a lot of fun. Here are five tips for gardeners who want to attract those beneficials otherwise known as children.
1. Grow fruits and vegetables that you can pick and eat directly from the plant. What child can resist the instant gratification of eating sweet sugar snap peas straight from the vine? The children always eat the ripe cherry tomatoes off the vine before I can ever get to them. They also love the fresh figs off the tree that I grow in a container on my deck. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and the wild wineberries are other favorites.

2. Grow vegetables that your children can plant, tend and/or harvest. This takes a little more effort on the part of mom than the former suggestion, but children can learn a lot from planting, tending and harvesting vegetables too. It's really amazing for a child to plant a seed or seedling, water it, watch it grow, tend it, and harvest it. This year, my children helped plant almost all of the vegetables and took particular pleasure in harvesting the asparagus, lettuce, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, corn and potatoes.
3. Grow heirloom varieties that you can't buy in the grocery store. As you can tell by the name of my blog, Heirloom Gardener, I am particularly interested in plants that our grandparents and prior generations grew. While these varieties aren't typically available as seedlings at your local nursery, you can buy an almost infinite variety through online and offline catalogs and seed exchanges. The children find the variety and novelty of them quite interesting. Some of my children's favorites this season were the lemon cucumbers (they are about the size and color of a prickly lemon) and the German stripe tomatoes (mostly yellow with a spot of orange on one end).
4. Grow edibles with which they can play. In addition to using some of the above vegetables for playing store, the children have also found other ways to play with the edibles. For example, they love using the hollow stems of chives and lovage as drinking straws. Also, they have made up a drink with the fresh mint, which is made of crushed mint leaves, sugar, and sparkling water.
5. Grow flowers that are also edible. The children find it quite amusing that some flowers are edible. They particularly like including pansies, marigolds, calendula, and nasturtium flowers and leaves in our salads with mixed greens or as garnish.
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JGH said...

Really good tips, here - thanks! We have a school garden, but I find that at home, my kids rarely see a project through from start to finish. They love it when I say "run out and find some chives" - never thought of using them as straws -- how fun! That's some nice asparagus too. Fun because it's a perennial and can even be eaten right away if you catch it while it's tender. Have a nice Thanksgiving!

Gardening at the Crossroads said...

Great tips. It's never too early to involve children in gardening.

Neal's love of gardening came from the summer gardening program in the Cleveland, Ohio schools. The garden supplies would arrive at the school just before the end of school each year. Tomato plants, seeds, and I think DDT- this was the old days. All with the promise of a bountiful garden harvest. Unfortunately, the garden was usually overrun with weeds by August, but lessons were learned.

Planting a mix of short and longer season crops will keep their interest. Planting unusual and heirloom varieties as you suggest will help them to understand the diversity of our world.

We have a page that will be updated after the holidays that contains some unusual plants-

Corner Gardener Sue said...

You have provided some great information in these posts. I have a neighbor boy who comes over and picks grape or cherry tomatoes, goes inside, washes them, then sits down and eats them.

I am excited for my grandson to get older and help in the garden. He loves going on "yard walks" with me, looking at the flowers, and watching for butterflies, bees, and birds. He'll be a year old 1/4/09

Anonymous said...

What terrific tips, HG! Your children are very lucky. I appreciate you sharing this post for the November GGW Design Workshop - and thanks for inspiring the topic for the next one, too!

Julia Erickson said...


I can't wait to find out what you have in store for next month.

-Heirloom Gardener

Search Heirloom Gardener


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