Did your summer pass you by without giving you the time to garden with your kids? You haven’t absolutely missed your chance to garden with your kids!
Time spent gardening is an excellent time to talk to your kids about life, to teach them about science and growing plants, personal responsibility, and it’s a fun way to get them out of the house and into the sunshine with purpose. Get them their own pair of garden gloves and teach them to pull any weeds they can, but step in and help if a weed is too large or prickly.
The success of any summer gardening endeavor is dependent on fighting the sun. Keep the soil moist and soil temperature lower than 80 degrees Fahrenheit to keep plants healthy. This can be achieved through the use of drip irrigation bottles buried in the soil, shade netting over the plants themselves, and any natural shade from trees. Creating and installing the first two are enjoyable kids’ activities.
Growing their own vegetables is one of the best ways to get kids, especially picky eaters, to expand their palates; a child is more likely to eat something he or she is personally invested in. When choosing varieties of any vegetable for a summer garden, be sure to pick a winter-resistant variety that fits in with your climate zone (which you can easily find on the USDA website to check against seed packets). Add 14 days to the maturity date on the seed packet or seedling information tab to find your planting date.
Here are some things you can plant with kids now to get them out in the garden and interested in vegetables:
- Spinach – This leafy green vegetable thrives in fall and is packed with vitamins and fiber. It’s recommended that you serve it to kids fresh for maximum nutrients—plus they’re less likely to eat a soggy, green mass than the fresh leaves they recognize from your time together in the garden.
- Broccoli – Another vegetable that thrives in the crisper weather during which you’ll be harvesting it. It’s a nutrition powerhouse and a textural wonder for kids!
- Lettuce – Choose winter-resistant varieties, such as bib lettuce, and have fresh in-season lettuce to pack in the kids’ lunches—they can proudly tell the other kids they grew it themselves!
- Kale – This one is almost impossible to serve most kids, but you have a shot if you grow this green yourself. It’s perfect for fall harvest, and good for you and your kids; if they absolutely can’t stomach it, more for you (or you can find a sneak-veggies-in recipe)
- Peas – You’ll want to plant bush varieties rather than climbing peas in fall. They’re a joy for all ages to pick apart and eat; a fresh snack and a delicious, edible object lesson on plant biology.
- Shallots – These onion family members separate into clove-like segments similar to garlic, but are slightly milder than onions in flavor. Plant them in late summer and harvest pieces from the top down starting in spring
- Leeks – These extra-mild green-and-white onion cousins are excellent served creamed, au gratin, with fish, or as part of sauces or dressings. Sow the seeds now and harvest your luscious leeks next year!
- Carrots – Luckily, most kids love this crunchy orange root vegetable. They’re fun to plant now, and they’ll be even more fun to pull up by the tops this fall. And you can use them in practically anything, from soups to stocks or snack plates to stir-fry meals. They can even be juiced as a health bonus to smoothies (or juiced and drunk as-is if you’re hard
Once the fall harvest has passed, you can start planning spring gardening and getting your kids involved; let them help you pick out new vegetables, peruse garden shed plans, and maybe give you some flower suggestions! Now you’ve laid the foundations for an active outdoor with edible results for valuable time with your kids—and here you were thinking there wasn’t any time!
Kids want to dig more into the environment, wildlife, and nature? Check out our nature and wilderness camps and classes on ActivityHero.
Written by Leslie Mason, a homemaker and garden expert. Leslie enjoys writing, gardening, do-it-yourself projects, and fixing up the house.