10 Plants Perfect for a Kids' Garden

Two children digging in a garden

Woodley Wonder Works

Spring is officially here and although many parts of North America are still seeing winter weather, it's time to start planning your spring and summer gardens. If you have kids, introducing them to gardening and letting them help is a great way to teach them about where our food comes from and to get them excited about trying new fruits and vegetables. This year, how about letting them have their own little garden to take care of? Many plants are well-suited for children because they're colorful, tasty, fast-growing, and can take the abuse of imperfect watering. I've chosen 10 that should help turn your children into confident gardeners.

A few tips:

1. If your kids are very young, pick just two or three out of this list to start with and keep their section small. A couple of planters with a plant each would work well.

2. Teach your kids about the different parts of the plants, especially which parts are edible and which aren't. Some plants, like potatoes, have parts that are toxic. Make sure that they only sample the food they grow with your supervision.

3. Give your kids tools to use on their own like smaller versions of real metal tools and a watering can for gentle watering.

4. Expect things to be messy and know that the results will not be the same as in your garden patch, but let them take full ownership. This is just a way for them to explore gardening and learn to love the process. The more they do it and the older they get, the better they'll be at it.

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Hands down my favorite thing to put the kids in charge of is the herbs. Plants like rosemary, mint, basil, cilantro, sage, and dill all grow extremely easily and they can be sampled at any time. Herbs are the best starter plant for toddlers and young kids. Give them their own pot with a couple of herb plants to water and watch them care for them with pride. Herbs are also great for exposing them to different flavors. As a toddler, my daughter would eat mint, and basil leaves every time she went outside. It was the coolest thing for her to be able to eat leaves right off a plant. Mint is an especially strong grower. Even if your kids skip the watering more than they should and occasionally stomp on the plant, it will still keep producing.

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credit: Chiot's Run

Though not a favorite veggie of kids, radishes are a good plant for them to grow because the seeds quickly germinate in just a few days and their growing season is only 20 to 30 days so the kids will get to sample their harvest quickly. Radishes come in a variety of colors that will excite kids and their strong flavor will open up kids' palates to new tastes. To keep them from getting too spicy, plant them in milder weather. Hot weather and less water produces a hot radish.

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Snap Peas

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A fun and easy veggie to grow are sugar snap peas. Kids love the sweetness and crunch and are happy to pick them right off the vine to eat. The blossoms are also beautiful. The peas make curly tendrils that need some support either against a fence or a tomato cage. Make sure to have a plant for you too because the kids will eat everything their plant produces.

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Cherry Tomatoes

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This is probably my kids' favorite food to grow. Cherry tomatoes are sweet and grow plentifully. The kids love to watch them ripen from green to red and then pull them from the vine as soon as I say they can. These can be grown in containers, which would make them a good choice if you're giving your child their own garden pot. Make sure to place stakes alongside each seedling because they'll need to be loosely tied as they grow. You can also use a tomato cage.

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Sunflowers are a great choice because they grow quickly and kids love to watch them track the sun. They grow large, hitting two feet in about a month, so even just a couple plants will take up a nice spot in the garden. If you buy confectionery sunflowers, those that are meant for food, you can harvest the seeds in late summer when they begin to dry and roast them. Other flowers that are colorful and easy for kids to take care of are nasturtiums and marigolds, but possibly the most fun option is to let your kids plant a pack of wildflower seeds and watch to see what surprises grow.

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This choice is obvious. Pretty much all kids love strawberries and luckily they're easy to grow too. Choose ever-bearing strawberry plants to get fruit twice a year. The one downside to strawberries is that pests and other animals like them as much as we do. A great solution that also works if you're short on garden space is to use hanging strawberry baskets. Getting them up off the ground protects them and keeps your garden compact. If you go that route, make sure the kids can still reach the basket for watering or have a stool handy.

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Lettuces are another low-maintenance plant with a quick pay off. Seeds begin to sprout within 10 days and lettuces can grow year-round. The leaves just ask to be picked and munched on, which is a great way to get leafy greens in your kids' diets. Let them pick the color and type of lettuce and they'll be more likely to eat a salad of it.

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While slower to grow -- they take about 60 days to mature -- carrots are easy to maintain and fun for kids to pull up when they're ready. Look for baby carrots or other small varieties. Kids love small foods, but the smaller carrots are also easier to grow than their large counterparts.

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Although we've never had the room to make it work, pumpkins are a fantastic plant for kids if you have a decent-sized garden patch. The seeds sprout in only 7 days and after a few more days, the vines start creeping along the ground. Soon enough, the vines blossom and baby pumpkins start to emerge. Pumpkins take 80 to 120 days to mature, but kids will get to watch them grow for a long time, which is pretty exciting. If you make this a mid-summer crop, you'll be able to carve one for Halloween.

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credit: Chiot's Run

The best part of growing potatoes with kids is the harvesting. They get to dig into the ground, looking for buried treasure, something that all kids can appreciate. The planting and tending to the potatoes might best be done by slightly older kids because of the wait time between planting and harvest and also the fact that all parts of the plant except the edible tuber are toxic. Toddlers and preschoolers might be a little too eager to sample the plant. Potatoes are a good choice because of all the yummy comfort foods that kids love that can be made from them and the color choices you can pick from.