Ten Top Crops For Kids

Here are 10 relatively, easy to grow crops with short growing seasons and are fun to harvest.

                             Sunflower 2012_Mount Pleasant _Elena Francis _IMG_4359 Copy

sunflower
Sunflowers will sprout in 1 week, become a small seedling in 2 weeks, and should be 2' tall in a month. They do take up a lot of room when grown. In 8 weeks, the buds will flower revealing hundreds of seed kernels.

lettuce
A quick and reliable crop to give the child fast results, and also a good way to interest kids in salads. Lettuce likes part shade; keep soil moist especially during the first two weeks. The seeds will germinate in 7-10 days; growing season is 40-50 days. You can grow 'head' (space 8" apart) or 'leaf' (space 4" apart) varieties; the leaf varieties will mature sooner, about 30-35 days.

radishes
Quick results for the young gardener. Radishes germinate in 3-10 days, and have a very short growing season of 20-30 days. They can be planted closely, 4-6" apart. Plant in cool weather for best results.

Edible gardening 

snow peas
A quick-growing early crop, and fun for kids to eat right off the vine. They take about 10 days to germinate and mature in about 60 days. Peas prefer cooler, partially shaded locations in the garden; they should be sown closely, about 1" apart at most. Snow peas are popular because the pod is edible and since they are a dwarf plant they can be grown without a trellis.

cherry tomatoes
Plant in full sun and use seedlings rather than planting from seed. Put in a 2' stake alongside each seedling; they need to be tied loosely to stakes as they get taller. Add lots of compost. Water at ground level, trying to keep leaves dry. Growing season is 50-75 days. Cherry tomatoes can also be grown in containers

nasturtiums
These flowers are easy to grow and yield results quickly, which encourages the young gardener. Nasturtiums bloom about 50 days after the seeds are planted, with orange, yellow and red flowers. They prefer sunny, dry locations and do well in poor soil. The flowers are edible, and can be used to add colour to a fresh garden salad.

bush beans
Fast, easy, high yield and, because they do not grow tall, they are easy for kids to harvest. Bush beans germinate in 4-8 days, and mature in 40-65 days. It's best to plant a small patch, then another in a few weeks. This will extend the harvest. When choosing seeds, select the "low bush" varieties because these will be easier for children to harvest. Plant closely spaced, about 4" apart. Grow in direct sun; water the soil but try to keep the leaves dry. Bush beans don't need poles or trellises to grow.

carrots
Seeds can be sown directly into soil; carrots prefer cooler temperatures. They can be slow to germinate, so be patient. Carrots will mature in about 60 days. The soil should be free of rocks and easy for the carrot to grow 'down'. Keep well-watered and thin to every 3" because crowding will produce foliage but no root. Small varieties are recommended for children, as they're easier to grow and more fun to eat.

potatoes
Red vaireties will mature faster. Children seem to favor the red variety. Cut seed potatoes into chunks with at least 2 'eyes' per. Plant in furrows, about 12-15" apart, with eyes pointing upward. Mound soil up around plant as it grows; harvest when plant collapses.

pumpkins
Plant seeds in a small hill; poke three holes in the hill and put one seed in each hole. Seeds will sprout in about 1 week; after a few days, vine leaves begin to form and creep along the ground. Once there are 3 pumpkins on the vine, pick off any new blossoms. Pumpkins take 80 - 120 days to harvest: it's ready when it feels hard on the outside and sounds hollow when tapped.

You might want to try:

corn - a heavy feeder, corn needs lots of compost or fertilizer, and requires a lot of growing space in relation to the size of the harvest. If the plants aren't "knee high by the 4th of July", the ears will be small. In our garden, either the crows got the seedlings, or the plants just never got big enough to yield a good harvest.

green onions - easy to grow, but kind of yucky.

zucchini - easy, fast, and impressive size, but it takes a good recipe like chocolate  zucchini cake  to get children excited about zucchini.

strawberries - great, but can be a struggle with the predators. We chose the 'ever-bearing' strawberry varieties which have smaller fruit but which bear all summer. You can net the plants from the birds and squirrel,
but sometimes the birds get caught in the net.

gardening with children

Give them their own garden beds. Whether you use raised beds, containers or ground plots, be sure to give each child his or her own separate plot. Keep it small, very small for young kids. Put their plots right in the middle of the action, with the best soil and light. Set them up for success.

Reuse the sandbox. If your children have grown past their sandbox years, consider converting the old sandbox to a garden bed. This gives the child continued 'ownership' of a familiar space and encourages a sense of responsibility to the gardening project.

A productive garden bed needs to be in good sunlight and the best soil you can find. Add compost to the soil to improve the qulity. It may be necessary to relocate the sandbox if growing conditions are less than ideal.

Intensive Gardening Image

Give them serious tools. Cheap plastic child's gardening tools are worse than no tools at all; they break easily and frustrate the user.  

Engage them from seed to table. Children learn better when they understand the context of their activity. They will learn that gardening can be fun, but far more than idle play; they are contributing to the family well-being. Besides planting and nurturing their garden beds, be sure they alone do the harvesting and preparation of their crop for the table, no matter how modest the offering.