By Erin Tessier
I often get questions from parents in passing about what they should plant in their gardens with their children. I love these questions but figured that my quick responses at pick-up and drop-off could be expanded upon. So here goes!
Now that it’s spring it’s time to plant warm season veggies and fruits. If you are unfamiliar with warm and cool season vegetables and fruits, the San Diego Master Gardeners have a pretty comprehensive list for our region, along with best months to plant whether you are coastal or inland.
There is a lot to consider when deciding what to plant. How much space do you have, how much sun do you get, do you have known pests like gophers, bunnies, rats, etc? How much money you want to spend is also key. If you want to grow veggies and/or fruit it’s best to have a sunny spot, with good soil, or the ability to add healthy potting soil/compost to amend the soil with. If you have gophers, then you’ll likely want a raised bed with a bottom or good hardware cloth. There are lots of options! And if you don’t have an outdoor space to grow it doesn’t mean you can’t grow healthy, delicious produce for you and your family. I think one of the biggest things to consider is what does your child(ren) want to grow? If they are interested and invested in the plants in the garden, then you’re sure to have a great time developing their green thumb.
Fast and Furious: If you want something with a quick turn around here are a few options:
- Microgreens: These are my absolute favorite for quick, easy plants to grow indoors. All you need is a small tray, be able to mist them daily, and you’ll have greens that are 4-5 times more nutritious than their grown counterparts in 3 weeks time! Add them to smoothies, sandwiches, salads, anything. They are awesome!
- Radishes: Quick and easy to germinate. Radishes are ready in about 21 days usually. They do need some depth of soil to grow well though. And for some kids, the flavor may be a bit overpowering.
- Lettuces: These need to be in the shade during warmer months or they will bolt (shoot up vertically and start to flower early), but it’s usually pretty easy to grow them in a window sill indoors too. There are lots of varieties to choose from.
Easy for little hands: If you are planting from seed, you’ll have to take into account the size of the seeds for little hands.
- Sunflowers- Not only beautiful and fun to watch grow, but the bees love them as well!
- Corn- Another tall garden staple and the pollination process is quite interesting too.
- Beans- Bush or pole (needs support/trellis), these are big seeds, easy to grow, and fun to snap off fresh to eat right out of the garden.
- Watermelon- If you have space, watermelon and other melons are great to grow. Watch out for powdery mildew in certain regions. Sakata sweets are a fun one that you can actually eat like an apple, rind and all! Sometimes trellising helps these spreading plants.
- Pumpkin- Just like the melons, you’ll need lots of space, but what kid wouldn’t want to use their own pumpkin they grew for Halloween carving!?
Some other summer favorites: These are warm-season staples that are also kid-approved.
- Tomatoes – It’s not summer in the garden without being able to pop a few cherry tomatoes right in your mouth. Opt for smaller varieties for kiddos’ mouths. Juliet, sweet 100, sun gold, and tom thumb (a variety that can grow in patio containers) are all good choices among others. Watch for early blight, or Septoria leaf spot, and make sure to rotate the location you plant in annually to avoid root-knot nematode.
- Strawberries – Delicious and versatile, strawberries are a fun one to grow and can be grown as a perennial (the same plant will last for a few years). Plant in pots or in the soil. Beware that rats and squirrels might like to share!
- Other warm-season crops to consider: Squash, cucumber, peppers, eggplant and many herb varieties such as basil, thyme, and oregano. There are so many options!
Enjoy your fresh summer produce and always feel free to stop and chat about gardening =).