Home > Healthy Eating Tips > Vegetable Gardening with Kids

Vegetable Gardening with Kids

By: Catherine Gough - Updated: 15 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Vegetables Healthy Diet Gardening

There’s nothing like growing their own vegetables to get kids interested in eating them too. Many children refuse to eat more than a couple of basic vegetables – peas and carrots for instance – but if they grow their own, this reluctance will almost certainly change for the better.

A Garden Isn’t Essential

Children don’t need to produce a massive crop to find vegetable gardening satisfying. Just a couple of handfuls of radishes for example, might persuade them to eat them again when they next turn up in the supermarket shopping.

If parents don’t have a spare corner in the garden – or they don’t have a garden at all – small crops in containers work very well. For example:

  • Plant peas in pots with wigwam-shaped frames made from bamboo canes or a roll of chicken wire in the centre of the pot
  • Plant seed potatoes in an old barrel, an old dustbin (with holes drilled in the bottom) or in old tyres stacked up on one another – they grow just as well vertically as horizontally
  • Grow courgettes and marrows in containers too. Some people even grow squashes straight on top of the compost heap!
  • Tomatoes can be grown in pots too, with a stake in each – ‘grow bags’ aren’t necessary. There are lots of varieties available, even trailing ones to grow in hanging baskets.
  • Lettuce is successful in containers, especially if picked regularly. Sow at 2-week intervals for a continuous supply.
  • Children love keeping mustard and cress on the windowsill – it’s easy to grow on a sheet of kitchen towel, providing they remember to keep it damp at all times
Remember, most vegetables appreciate a sheltered but sunny spot, so don’t allocate the darkest corner of the garden or there might not be much to show for it!

Old Favourites or New Tastes?

By all means grow vegetables that the children enjoy. Peas have the added advantage of looking nice, with delicate white flowers and curling tendrils that wrap themselves around their supports – so even if the kids gobble up the frozen kind already, try growing fresh too. There’s nothing like the taste of their favourite vegetable straight from the plant (most kids will eat peas raw from the pods if they get the chance) and it might get them interested in the other things planted in the vegetable patch.

But ring the changes a bit too. Carrots come in all shapes and sizes and even colours. Purple and white carrots don’t get much of a look-in at the supermarket, but it’s easy to buy seed at the garden centre and they’ll cause quite a stir on the plate. It’s also worth planting a few vegetables that the kids won’t usually eat – perhaps beetroot or leeks or asparagus. If they've tended them from the start, they’re more likely to want to harvest them and have a taste.

Give them Choice and Responsibility

Try to let the kids choose what they want to grow and let them have a patch of land or some containers of their own to use. Supply them with any tools, compost and information that they need or research it together in the library or on the internet. Then try to step back. Parents can always gently remind the children if their plants are wilting, without taking over – and the kids will get a huge sense of achievement if they grow the vegetables all by themselves.

Make it Competitive

To get the kids really interested, run a few competitions. Who can grow the tallest beans? Whose tomato plants will have the most fruit? Only children can pitch one plant against another or compete against their parents. Teach them how to look after their plants – such as pinching out tomatoes or thinning out carrots – and to feed and water them regularly.

You Don’t Need a Greenhouse

Families with a greenhouse can really go to town and grow some tender and exotic vegetables such as cucumbers, peppers and aubergines. But it’s not necessary to have a greenhouse to grow vegetables successfully. A sunny windowsill is perfect for growing seedlings or plant straight out when the weather gets warmer.

Plant Herbs Too

Herbs are another great idea for kids’ gardening. They smell wonderful and look pretty too. They’re also fine in borders or containers – in fact, some (like mint) are quite invasive and may be better off in a pot. Herbs can really help children get interested in cooking. They’ll be fascinated to find out that a sprig of mint will make all the difference to boiling potatoes or that tomatoes and basil were made for each other. It’s also fun to try nibbling the leaves of different herbs and talk about the flavours. Do make sure that children understand about toxic plants though – they mustn’t imagine that everything in the garden is there for the eating.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word: