Gardening | 12 June 201710 Best Vegetables to Grow with Kids Share article facebook twitter google pinterest One of the best ways to encourage healthy eating habits for kids is to bring them into the garden, introducing them to the sensory experience, patience, play, and reward of nurturing a plant from seed to plate. Experiencing vegetables as a shared adventure instead of a chore means more greens for everyone—today and throughout their lives. In Square Foot Gardening High-Value Veggies, author Mel Bartholomew introduces us to Sharon Lovejoy, who shares her expert tips for the top ten vegetables to grow in a child’s garden. Square Foot Gardening High-Value Veggies. Photo: Paul Markert Top 10 Vegetables to Grow with Kids Sharon Lovejoy has worked with enough children in the garden to know what captures youngsters’ attention and what leaves them yearning for a TV. The author of Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together with Children and host of her own fun-packed website, www.sharonlovejoy.com, Lovejoy believes you have to make the garden both manageable and fascinating for young green thumbs to come into their own. As she puts it, “It’s more about the love factor and personality than anything else.” She has developed a few tried-and-true strategies for keeping kids interested from planting through harvest. Containerize: Kids can view long, straight rows under a hot sun as work and drudgery rather than fun. That’s why Lovejoy suggests corralling plants into kid-friendly growing spaces. “It’s really easy for kids to grow vegetables in half-barrels, wooden produce boxes, and other containers. It makes sense because they’re not tending a huge garden area. Instead, you put all the energy and finances into one little space.” Foster connection: In addition to placing containers where children can watch their garden grow, Lovejoy recommends using smaller gardening accessories. “Keep a kid-sized watering can handy. I love to say, ‘Hey check out your plants and see if they’re thirsty. And remember that they’re the opposite of us, they want their toes watered!’” She also suggests keeping a colander or basket in the garden for harvesting. Make it fun: Lovejoy advocates involving children at every step in the gardening adventure. “Take your children to the garden center or look through a catalog with them. Catalogs are full of fun options.” She suggests picking unusual colors, shapes, and textures to really intrigue children. “Kids love when things are called one thing but look like something else.” Here are Lovejoy’s Top 10 Best Vegetables for a Child’s Garden, and her comments about each: PUMPKIN Kids just love pumpkin. They can grow a giant pumpkin in an old garbage can with screened drainage holes. As an alternative, help your child grow spaghetti squash—a fun and nutritious substitute for pasta night. CORN Corn is so easy to grow, and kids can choose from such a wide variety. They love to grow their own popping corn. You can even plant beautiful strawberry popping corn. BEAN I adore scarlet runner beans and painted lady beans for kids. Both have flowers that are edible and form wonderful seedpods. Their speckled beans are great for soup. The plants also attract hummingbirds. CARROT Don’t grow plain carrots. Kids can choose purple or a fun mini like ‘Thumbelina’. These are underground treasures; children just love to pull them out of the ground. RADISH This is probably the easiest plant to grow in a child’s garden. I’d suggest trying unusual varieties like ‘French Breakfast’, ‘White Icicle’, or ‘Black Spanish’. But probably the favorite of kids everywhere is ‘Easter Eggs’ because they come in a wonderful rainbow of pastel colors. TOMATO Children like to grow tomatoes, and the plant is so adaptable to containers. I like green grape and red grape, or pear tomatoes, and I have kids grow the tiny currant tomatoes. It’s best to choose indeterminate varieties so that kids can pick them—and eat them—all summer long. WATERMELON Right now my grandson is growing watermelons, and he’s crazy about them. If you really want to capture and captivate children, grow ‘Moon and Stars’. They have a big moon and constellations all over the rind. Just lovely. POTATO Something I always grow with kids is a tub of taters. I like ‘Ruby Crescents’, yellow fingerlings, and ‘Yukon Gold’. Go for blue and purple varieties, which are high in vitamins and minerals. LETTUCE Get all different kinds. Frisee, deer tongue—they all taste great. Plant them like a bouquet. Kids love that. Sprinkle in some kale. Children especially like butter lettuce and Romaine. CUCUMBER I like all cucumbers, and they’re all good, but ‘Lemon’ is especially wonderful. Kids are fascinated that it’s shaped like a lemon, colored like a lemon, but it’s a cucumber inside. Buy from an Online Retailer US: AU: Calculate the return on investment for your vegetable garden and get the most bang for your gardening bucks! Get the most return on investment from your garden by calculating which vegetables, fruits, and herbs give the highest payback. To make the selection process of what to grow easy, Mel Bartholomew–author of the best-selling Square Foot Gardening–has a new book to maximize your garden’s ROI. High-Value Veggies is an easy-to-use reference book helping gardeners choose edibles that make the most financial and spatial sense. Explore the thought processes and math behind growing vegetables and herbs in order to craft the best plan for your produce. Maximizing your garden’s yield is no simple task. Consider the tomato; most people think it’s a safe bet for a high-yield return – but which variety? Heirloom tomatoes typically cost $5 or more a pound at farmers’ markets. You can beat that price by growing Cherokee Purples from seed at a net cost of only 80 cents per pound. If you plant purchased seedlings, the cost will go up to about $1 a pound–and that’s including the cost of water and fertilizer. High-Value Veggies makes this cost evaluation for each vegetable easy. Whether you’re interested in growing tomatoes, pumpkins, cabbage, corn, or anything else, it’s wise to consider the invisible dollar signs sown along the way. The relative ROI for each veggie in High-Value Veggies is calculated based on dollar value generated for each square foot planted. You don’t need to be a math whiz to plan your next vegetable garden. Bartholomew has done the math for you, and he has cost-effective answers. Mel Bartholomew was the founder and inventor of Square Foot Gardening and the author of All New Square Foot Gardening, the best-selling gardening book in America for a generation. The book has sold 2.5 million copies since Bartholomew wrote the first book in 1981. He hosted a PBS TV show for five years, and then was telecast for three more years on the Learning Channel and Discovery Network. Bartholomew presided over the nonprofit Square Foot Gardening Foundation, which encourages every household around the world to have a small garden and eat fresh, healthy vegetables that are uncontaminated. He passed away in May, 2016. Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.