I grew up on a farm, so we had a lot of space to grow a garden. A huge garden. And we produced a lot of food every summer. So much that we would end up giving lots away because it was just more than we could use or process (especially tomatoes, zucchini and squash). Because of the size it was a huge amount of work – between planting, weeding, watering and harvesting and even though, as a kid, I wasn’t always thrilled about having to put in all that time, I now look back at it rather fondly. I learned a lot about plants, both vegetables and flowers and I am now a pretty confident and competent gardener on my own. My almost 9 year old daughter also likes to garden. We haven’t always had the ideal space for growing vegetables so we grew a lot of container plants but last year I got busy and built us a few large garden beds so we could actually grow a bigger garden. It was so much fun and so rewarding. Unfortunately we had a super, hot dry summer last year so I spent more time watering than I would have liked but it was worth it in the end.
If you have a little one interested in gardening and are maybe new to gardening yourself I’ve got a few tips on the types of plants (both flowers and vegetables) that are relatively easy to grow to get you started.
** Just a note that I’m in Saskatchewan so that’s the climate I’m use to growing in. We do have a shorter growing season here in the prairies than other places but most of the plants I talk about should do well where you are too unless you live some place tropical!
Gardening With Kids – What to Plant for Success
An herb garden is a great way to get into gardening. You don’t need a lot of space (you can even do it indoors if you have a sunny spot) and it’s awesome to have lots of fresh herbs to cook with. Most herbs are really easy to grow and require very little care other than a little water. A good size pot or garden box is perfect for an herb garden. You have lots of options as to what to plant. Last year our herb garden box consisted of only mint plants. I managed to find four or five different varieties of mint. If you want fool proof mint is your plant!
Other good options for an herb garden are basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, parsley and sage. Right up there in the easy to grow list are chives and dill. But take note that both of these plants have a tendency to take over and show up next year in places you don’t want. My chives are like weeds in my yard. If you are growing them in pots on your patio you shouldn’t have much of a problem with them.
With the exception of dill which you can easily grow from seed (almost too easily) I buy the rest of my herbs as seedlings from plant stores. If you have an indoor space suitable to start seeds go ahead and give it a try! I have three cats in my house that make trying to grow anything indoors impossible.
Sunflowers are my absolute favourite thing to grow. They are so bright and beautiful and just make me smile. There are a lot of varieties of sunflowers and a wide range of sizes and colours, from pale yellow to almost red. You can grow them from seed right in the ground or in a decent sized pot. They just need a fair amount of sun. If you choose a tall variety you also might need to stake them to keep them upright.
Another really easy to grow plant. And you don’t need a lot of space to grow a couple of potato plants either. The past few years we have grown our potatoes in bags specially made for that. You can find reusable fabric or polypropylene potato growing bags at many places that sell plants and seeds. If you happen to have some burlap bags around you can use them too! Of course, you can grow them the “old fashioned” way in the ground too!
Another one of my favorite flowers to grow are morning glories. They are a perfect flower to grow in a pot, you just need to provide something for them to climb. A small trellis (which you can get at dollar stores come gardening season) works well. Sometimes I will place my pot by a fence or railing and let them use that. Of course you don’t need to use a pot at all. If you have a nice sunny spot near a fence you can plant them there. They come in shades from pale blue to rich purple. You can also find pink and white varieties.
Bonus – hummingbirds love morning glory flowers!
I’ve never had a carrot crop fail. You do need a bit of space to grow them and you want to make sure you’ve loosened up your soil nicely to give them room to root. Full sun is best but carrots will tolerate a little shade. You can plants seeds directly into the soil, just be prepared to thin the seedlings (unless you plants the perfectly spaced seed tape).
Beans are another almost fool proof plant to grow. This is another vegetable that can be planted right from seed. You will need a little space to grow beans and something to support them like a small pea/bean fence or garden net (again something else you can pick up at the dollar store).
Last year my daughter and I grew edamame (soy) beans for the first time and they did incredible! I froze most of our bumper crop into meal size servings and we are still eating them. Molly was pretty thrilled because she loves them so much.
I’m going to be honest, marigolds are not my favorite flower. I don’t like their scent and I don’t find them that visually appealing. However, they are easy to grow and easy to keep alive so they are solid option for a budding gardener. You can grow them, directly from seed, right in the ground or in pots.
Cucumbers and Zucchini
Although they are clearly different plants I put these two together because their growing requirements are pretty much the same. They are pretty easy to grow, you can plant seeds directly in the ground and they do require a bit of space. You can maximize space with cucumber by letting them grow up a trellis. I’ve never tried that with zucchini – they are so much bigger, I’m not sure how successful that would be. Both cucumbers and zucchini prefer a steady amount of moisture. That doesn’t mean they need A LOT of moisture but regular waterings will ensure a better yield.
Pumpkins are relatively easy to grow but they do require a lot of space. There are quite a few varieties of pumpkins including jack-o-lantern varieties and pie ones. I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of giant pumpkins and while it’s totally possible to grow large pumpkins Saskatchewan, with our short growing season, is not the ideal place to try. Not that we can’t grow a good size pumpkin but those record breaking ones would be a challenge I wouldn’t want to take on! Pumpkins need lots of sun and good soil. They soak up a lot of nutrients so make sure you prepare the soil well. Pumpkins (like other squash) grow male and female flowers and the males need to pollinate the females so it can be helpful to have flowers around the garden that attract bees to get the job done!
Gladiolus are another solid choice for beginner gardeners they are very easy to grow and are pretty impressive plants with lovely flowers. They come in a wide range of colors and look best when you plant a grouping of them. You can plant the corms in early spring and will have beautiful tall “swords” of flowers by mid to late summer.
Ok, so a caveat here. Tomatoes are not always the easiest plant to grow. Some years they do amazing and some years not so much. They are sensitive to heat and soil conditions and can be quite finicky. But, there is nothing like fresh garden tomatoes so having even just one in a pot is worth a little trouble. If you’re a tomato virgin I highly recommend growing a cherry tomato variety. They are less likely to have issues like bottom rot and even if things go south you are bound to have at least a few juicy, sweet tomatoes for your troubles. You can grow from seed if you have a place indoors to get them started or just buy a seedling from your nursery. Tomatoes like both full sun and consistent moisture so be prepared to pamper them! No matter what variety you chose you will need a tomato cage to support the plant.
So, I’ve given you a few plant ideas here that hopefully help you get started. I realize I haven’t given you a whole lot of information about the how to’s of gardening but those resources are out there! Gardening in Canada is a nice little website with lots of helpful tips. The College of Agriculture at the University of Saskatchewan also is a great resource to get you started and answer questions. Happy gardening! I know I can’t wait to get mine planted this year.