There’s nothing like a backyard garden to get the whole family outside working and playing together! But if you’ve never gardened before, or have a not-so-green thumb, it can be a bit intimidating to get started.
Here are five, kid-friendly plants that are easy and fun to grow—giving you the best chance of gardening success.
Sugar snap peas are vine-y plants with spiral tendrils that climb up fences, trellises, branches, bushes . . . and even swing sets—just like kids! They grow relatively quickly, so youngsters can visually track their progress as they creep higher and higher each day. The pea pods they produce are crunchy and delicious straight off the vine; they make a great post-sprinkler jumping snack! And they can be a great way to make veggies more appealing to picky eaters. Plant them from seed along a fence or trellis as winter wraps up (they can even take a light frost), and in about two months you’ll be able to start harvesting and enjoying.
The classic first gardening project—sunflowers come in lots of different varieties depending on your goal. Some produce lots of smaller flowers on a single tall stem—so they’re perfect for little ones who like to make big, bright bouquets. And Mammoth sunflowers can grow up to twelve feet tall and produce giant heads full of seeds that are great for roasting and eating. Just read the seed packets to find the right variety for you. Plus, the extreme height of almost all varieties makes them loads of fun for little ones who are growing up fast themselves. “Look, Mom! It’s even taller than Dad!”
Regular tomato plants can sometimes be a bit picky, suffering from various diseases and insect infestations. But cherry tomato plants always seem to thrive. Buy plants from your local nursery in late April, and by July the little red treasures should start to appear. Kids will love hunting for the ripest of the bite-sized treats and their sweet, juicy flavor makes them perfect for lunch and snack time. And because one or two plants will often produce more than just one family can eat, they’re also a great way to teach kids to share. Your neighbors will thank you!
Potatoes aren’t as glamorous as juicy red tomatoes and towering sunflowers, so they often get overlooked by backyard gardeners. But they are so much fun for kids! Purchase some seed potatoes from a local garden center in March or April and plant them in long rows. Then be patient. In summer, when it looks as if the plants are dying, grab a large spade and start turning over the soil. Kids will have a blast digging in the dirt and discovering the buried treasures. Who can find the biggest? The smallest? The strangest shape? Plus, there are a million kid-friendly ways to cook them!
Because most herbs don’t produce fruits or veggies you can pick, they’re often overlooked by parents gardening with kids. But mint should definitely be on your list! This super hardy plant is semi-invasive, so you might want to plant it in a pot on the patio to keep it from taking over your garden beds. It grows quickly and profusely, and kids will have fun picking, sniffing, and even tasting the leaves! Rubbing them between your fingers makes them smell even stronger. And there are lots of fun hybrid varieties to choose from. Pineapple or chocolate mint anyone? Yum!
Chelsea Tornetto is an author, world geography teacher, and mom. Her first book, Conquering Content Vocabulary, was published by Scholastic in 2018, but now her passion is picture books. She lives in Jackson, Missouri, with her husband, Mike, her two kids, Tessa and Milo, and a miniature dachshund named Stella. She loves snow days, lattes, and summer. She hates spiders, her sinuses, and laundry.Check out Chelsea’s newest picture book, Gardens Are for Growing, at Familius.com!