GARDENING WITH KIDS: LESSONS LEARNED & PLANTS THAT WORKED!

 gardening with kids

Like all good things in life, a little patience goes a long way. ;) Gardening with our kids has been something we have done since they were very young, but this is the first year that all three kids were willing to wait until things were actually ripe to eat them! It has been such a joy to watch their absolute happiness at tasting a tomato straight from the garden, or creating their own 'salads' with ingredients they have grown, watered and then picked themselves. While the kids started out checking the plants each day to see their growth, it was the weekends or days that we were away and then came back that they were also extra excited to see the big changes.

The three key lessons we have all learned from working on the garden together:

  1. It's okay to have to start again
  2. If at first it doesn't work, try and try again!
  3. Good things grow with water, sun and a lot of love
 little hands with big tomato

I thought it would be helpful to note the veggies that worked well for our family this year in case you wanted to pin / save it for the beginning of next season. 

Vegetable success, aka easy plants to grow with kids in Vancouver on the West Coast, are as follows:

  • Tomatoes – Each of our kids choose a plant that is ‘theirs’ and they all grow a different type of tomato. This year Xavier chose cherry tomatoes that were red, Noelle chose ones that are yellow and Kaia chose big ones (she loves tomatoes in her sandwiches). We love watching how they all grow at different speeds and the kids like to compare whose plant is giving us the most tomatoes.
     
  • Runner Beans - Xavier brought this little plant home from preschool and we popped it into the garden to see it grow. Beans are super impressive (the rate of growth is unbelievable) and next year we will put some poles at the back of the garden for the beans to grow up.
     
  • Zucchini – I’m not sure why we haven’t tried zucchini before but this was a winner! Easy to grow and with BIG success, the kids used the biggest zucchini to make muffins with one day while I was at work (hence no photos).
     
  • Kale – Kale literally requires no maintenance and grows so big and quickly that is a crowd pleaser. While we love making kale salads, the kids adore kale chips and even eating it raw right out of the garden.
     
  • Romaine lettuce – While we’ve tried other types of lettuce previously, this one grew big and strong and I was surprised by that. Next year we’ll plant more.
     
  • Edible Flowers – when we asked our local garden centre whether they were able to recommend any edible flowers for our garden, I was astounded at how many options there were! We loved growing impatiens and next year we will plant more (and maybe a wider variety) so that we can add these to salads and as garnish to dinners. The kids ate the entire collection straight from the garden before they ever made it onto our plates.
     
  • Swiss Chard - easy to grow, minimal upkeep (just water!)
     
  • Herbs – Herbs are pretty simple to grow and we’ve had decent success with basil, parsley, mint, chives and rosemary. We grew thyme last year and it took over the garden; next year we’ll put it in a pot (as we do with mint).
 runner bean in garden

Plants that didn’t turn out well:

  • Broccoli – I’m not sure what we did wrong as our broccoli was looking good at the beginning, but each plant grew tall and flowery before we could eat it. The leaves were yellow (telling me our soil was low in nitrogen) and I think our garden was taking in too much sun for the broccoli to work. We may try this in a different location again next year.
     
  • Cauliflower – A giant fail! We didn’t see any signs of cauliflower other than big green leaves. No idea what we did wrong.
 gardening with kids

As the kids get older, I'm sure our garden will become more impressive but at this age, it's all about the process even if the yield isn't high. We live in the city in Vancouver and our garden is really only about one metre squared!!! It's incredible what can grow in this small space or even in pots on a balcony. I'd love to hear if you garden with your little ones and if so, what plants have worked well for you?

IN THE GARDEN WITH KIDS

Our kids looove the garden. They spend hours outside digging, watering, collecting treasures, picking, eating and generally just being very, very happy. While fresh air and sunshine are obviously an incredible feeling for us all, I also think having a little piece of dirt to play with is just plain fun. Whether you live in an apartment, or have a small outdoor area (us!) or have a sprawling backyard, a simple garden can bring kids SO MUCH JOY!

 making holes to put plants

Most people know our backyard because of our little playhouse. On the other side along a fence, we have a small garden bed where we grow vegetables. This year, the kids were fully onboard with it all, from choosing the plants to planting them!

With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to share a bit about our garden this season as we are novice gardeners and the outcome is FUN more than whether the plants actually grow.

 children's garden planting lettuce
 The starting of our garden with kids

We started with simple things - herbs (parsley, cilantro, still need to plant chives), lettuce and kale and the bean plant that Xavier brought home from preschool. These are sure to produce at least something. I also let the kids pick out plants that they wanted (zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli), which we have never grown before. We have had success with tomatoes in the past (and our kids gobble them up like candy) so put in five different tomato plants this year to test out colour and variety (and also put one in a pot next to the garden instead of in the garden bed to test which plants were happier). Like I said, we aren't looking for an amazing garden; it's all more of an experiment!

This is an ongoing project that I thought I would keep you posted on over the summer. I am happy to share anything about the garden in hopes that it might inspire you to start one of your own! Just leave me a comment and I'll answer it as quickly as possible.

There are some key items that we love to have nearby for the kids to use. Below I'm sharing our favourite tools for gardening with kids, including our favourite slide, which is perfect for times when everyone just needs a break, ha!

I'd love to know...do you grow plants with your kids? 

 top 10 picks for garden tools for kids

01. // Garden tools; 02. // Magnifying glass; 03. // Watering can; 04. // Gardening gloves; 05. // Flower press; 06. // Plant labels; 07. // Garden book; 08. // Water shoes; 09. // Outdoor slide; 10. // Plant buggy