by Greg Seaman
Children are natural gardeners. They’re 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 and observe the cycle of life firsthand.
Gardening is also a great way to teach environmental awareness by exploring the workings of nature.
What to plant – top 10 crops for children
Our children were involved with gardening from an early age, and it was gratifying to watch their interest and self-esteem grow as their gardening efforts yielded good results. 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.
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 2′ tall in a month. In 8 weeks, the buds will flower revealing hundreds of seed kernels. Be sure to gorw ‘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.
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 8″ apart) or ‘leaf’ (space 4″ apart) varieties; the leaf varieties will mature sooner, about 30-35 days.