Children are natural gardeners!

They are curious, like to learn by doing, and love to play in the dirt. Working in a garden, a child can experience the satisfaction that comes from caring for something over time, while observing the cycle of life first hand.

Gardening gives children a chance to learn an important life skill and is also a great way to teach environmental awareness by exploring the workings of nature.

Although there are many crops suitable for the young gardener, here are our “top 10”, which are relatively easy to grow, have short growing seasons and are fun to harvest.

Installing a Raised Garden Bed is child’s play!

‘Young Sprouts’ are never too young to start their own veggie garden.

Get your school, teachers, parents and local community groups invovled.

Your School Garden Project may be eligible for finanical assistance.

PLANT DESCRIPTION SOWING SEASON SOWING TIPS HARVEST TIME
Sunflower

A must for a child’s garden. Plant just one or two, since they take a lot of room. Sunflowers will sprout in 1 week, become a small seedling in 2 weeks, and should be 60cm tall in a month. In 8 weeks, the buds will flower revealing hundreds of seed kernels. Be sure to grow ‘confectionery’ sunflowers, the type grown for food. They will dry naturally in the late summer sun; the seeds, rich in protein and iron, can be roasted for snacks. Save a few for next summers’ planting. Spring and Summer Lots of sun and shelter from wind are best. Soil should be well prepared with compost dug in prior to sowing. Good drainage is essential. Plant 6mm direct where they are to grow, in front of a wall or at the back of the garden. Cover and press down firmly. 12 weeks after sowing
Lettuce / Mescalins 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 20cm apart) or ‘leaf’ (space 10cm apart) varieties; the leaf varieties will mature sooner, about 30-35 days. Spring and Summer Sow a few seeds in each clump, 6mm deep. Cover with fine layer of seed raising mix or soil, water gently. Space 30cm apart. Thin to strongest seedlings. Feed with liquid fertliser every 10-14 days. Water often as Lettuce have shallow roots. Make successive sowings. 8 weeks after sowing

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, 15cm apart. Plant in cool weather for a mild radish, or hot weather for a hotter radish. All year as required Sow thinly 15mm deep. Sow at fortnightly intervals for succession, in rows 20cm apart. Thin out individuals to 2.5cm apart and keep well watered. All year as required

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 2.5 cm 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. Autumn to Spring Sow 15mm deep into a well drained garden bed. Add plenty of organic matter, and some pre-planting fertilizer. Sow into damp soil, press down firmly and don’t water until seedlings appear. Protect young seedlings from birds and keep watered and weed free as plants grow. Pick frequently when pods are young. 8-10 weeks after sowing

Cherry Tomatoes

Gotta have ’em! These may be the most fun crop for a child, aside from strawberries. 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. Late Winter to late Spring Sow very shallow 5mm deep in pots or trays of seed compost, at approx. 18C. When large enough to handle transfer to 7.5cm pots, reduce to approx 16C (60F). Transfer to the greenhouse border or harden off and plant out from late October. Keep well watered. Once the first truss has set, apply liquid feed fortnightly. Support with stakes, pinch out sideshoots and limit to 4-5 trusses per plant, or grow unsupported in large containers which keep trusses clear of the ground, do not pinch out sideshoots. Summer to late Autumn

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. Choose the shorter varieties for garden beds. Nasturtiums are also pest resistant, which ensures a successful planting. The flowers are also edible, and can be used to add colour to a fresh garden salad. All year round as required Sow 15mm deep in either cell trays or directly into the soil. Space the large seeds individually, 25cm apart. Keep the soil moist and protect the plants. All year round as required

Dwarf Beans

Fast, easy, high yield and, because they do not grow tall, they are easy for kids to harvest. Beans germinate in 4-8 days, and mature in 40-65 days. Plant closely spaced, about 10cm apart. Grow in direct sun; water the soil but try to keep the leaves dry. Dwarf beans don’t need poles or trellises to grow. Spring and Summer Plant 25mm deep direct where they are to grow. Sow in dark, moist, well drained soil, preferably in a sheltered sunny position. Apply a pre-planting fertiliser in a band to the side or just below the seed. Keep well watered and mulch around the roots in hot weather. For a continuous crop, make your next sowing when previous crop develop their first true leaves. 8-10 weeks after sowing

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 8cm 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. Year round Sow 6mm deep in well prepared dark damp soil. Cover, firm down and keep damp until carrots germinate. When preparing your garden, dig to spade depth and add some organic fertiliser. Sow every few weeks for continuous crops. Can be grown in pots or containers, in full sun or part shade. 16-18 weeks after sowing

Potatoes

A ‘never-fail’ crop. You can plant red or white varieties; red will mature faster. Children seem to favor the red variety. Cut seed potatoes into chunks with at least 2 ‘eyes’ per chunk. Plant in furrows, about 35cm apart, with eyes pointing upward. Mound soil up around plant as it grows; harvest when plant collapses. Early Spring Plant 10cm deep and 30cm apart in full sun. 16-18 weeks after sowing

Pumpkins

A ‘must’ for a child’s garden, if you have the room. 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. Let an adult supervise the cutting, using shears. Seeds can be dried to eat, or save for future planting. The meat can be used for pies, and the pumpkin for carving. Spring and Summer Drop seeds 12mm deep direct in final position. Sow 4 or 5 seeds in clumps, later thinning to the two strongest seedlings. Allow 100cm between rows and 40-50cm  between clumps. When the young plants have 5 or 6 leaves pinch out the growing tips to encourage growth of side shoots. Grow alongside a fence if space is limited. Keep plants well watered and prepare the soil well by adding organic material and or complete fertiliser. When vine dies and the fruit stalks are dry.