What are the best vegetables to grow in the garden if you have young kids? If you’re like me and love nothing better than doing a spot of gardening. This becomes even more fun with your kids in tow.
Teaching your kids how to grow their own food equates to real life skills that they should have (but hopefully won’t need).
And by now, you’ve figured out that crop selection is pretty important.
If you want to get them involved, you’ll need crops that are going to be easy to grow and keep your children’s attention for long enough that they want to help you.
Having fun projects for them to help you with is great, but ultimately you want to teach them how to grow their own food. This also allows you to teach them where their food comes from – the ground!
Criteria for Child Friendly Crops
Before I go any further, I live in eastern Scotland. We have long, cold winters and dry springs and autumns. Summer can be wet but mild. This means that a whole range of temperate crops are on the table.
But a whole heap of vegetables that like warmer weather are off. Unless you have a greenhouse that is.
If you live somewhere warm and my recommendations don’t suit (or you have better options) use this as a guide and figure out your own ‘child friendly crops.
Kiddie friendly veggies should:
Be easy to handle for small hands – big seeds or tubers
Not be difficult to plant or sow
Grow with little effort or input
If you follow these general guidelines when gardening with kids, they’ll have more enjoyment and engagement.
And so will you.
My Top 3 Picks for Gardening with Kids
So if I had to pick three vegetables that fitted all of these criteria and grew easily in my corner of western Europe, what would I choose?
1. The Potato
You might know this as the Irish potato (they’re actually from Peru) but where I come from they’re just called potatoes, or tatties if you’re a true Scotsman.
You can buy seed potatoes in the spring and plant out when the frosts have finished. Right now I’m growing an early variety ‘Epicure’ and a maincrop ‘Maris Piper’.
Both of these grow well in my soil and climate but it’s worth experimenting to see which types work best.
Potatoes are easy to handle and plant for young kids. It’s also a simple concept for them: plant a potato and it will grow into lots of potatoes. If only it worked that way for other things (like cigars, BMWs, a debt free life).
2. Broad (or Fava) Beans
Here in the UK, we call them broad beans. Probably because they are big and fat (in Scotland, someone who is ‘broad’ likes to eat fried foods and watch House of Cards reruns).
This helpfully means that we don’t associate them with eating liver with Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. But I digress.
Broad beans are a bit of a wonder crop. They have big, round seeds which are great for little fingers, will grow anywhere and don’t mind the cold. They also grow up into big bushes which is gratifying for the gardener like me who likes quick results.
Broad beans are a bit of a super food being high in fibre and protein. They can be eaten when ripe and firm, or as a green vegetable when immature. I’ve also heard that the very young pods can be eaten like edamame, though I’ve never tried this.
Sowing Tip: Prepare the ground using a draw hoe and have your kids drop the large seeds into place. They can then cover them by hand.
3. Jerusalem Artichokes
These have very little to do with the more well known globe or Chinese artichokes. Both of these sport an edible plant or flower. When it comes to Jerusalem artichokes, it’s the roots we’re interested in.
I grow mine in a deep pit which I then fill with soil and well rotted horse manure. You can get your kids involved with this – it’s a good lesson in how animal poo can be turned into food – like magic!
Plant the tubers around 4 inches deep and cover. They’ll poke through in a few weeks. These large plants also have pretty flowers and so provide plenty of interest throughout the summer.
In autumn, leave the summer growth to die back. You can harvest them as you need through the winter.
The Best Crops for Kids – Summary
The spring is the best time to re-engage your kids with the garden. They’ll love learning with you and helping as much as possible. With a little planning of what to grow, you can really enhance their experience.
That’s why I’ve chosen these three crops as the best vegetables for kids to grow in the garden. They are easy, provide plenty of interest and can be easily handled by little fingers.
Make gardening time fun but be prepared to teach too. You are giving your kids skills for live and memories they’ll never forget.
P.S. I speak about how important it is for our kids to play outdoors in my upcoming book ‘A Father’s Mission’. Get updates by signing up here.