If you think you’re ready to garden with your kids, here are some of the best vegetables to grow from seeds in these crazy spring months. While the veggie possibilities are endless, these five have kid-friendly seed sizes (read: not teeny tiny) and grow quick enough to keep most kids’ interest. Once you have all your supplies, start with these fun veggies:
These are great for kids and can be planted right now! And the seeds look like regular peas, which is quite fun for most kids to see. Snap peas (really any peas) will need something to climb, like a trellis or a fence or drape of well-secured netting. But snap peas are great because kids can eat these shell and all right off the vine, yum!
Pot: large and wide because peas need some room – think a half-barrel with a trellis tucked in for those 2-3 foot vines!
Light: Full sun
Time: March, they don’t mind the cold!
Type: Cascadia or any with Sugar in the name (Sugar Sprint, Sugar Snap, Sugar Daddy…)
Tips: Peas are usually done before the heat of summer kicks in, when the leaves start to yellow and the vine withers and the pods get wrinkly and weird as they decide to turn to seed instead. This is the perfect time to unleash your bigger kids, who can have fun pulling up the vines and untwining them from the supports. Then you can plant something else in the big pot, like cucumbers or vining tomatoes!
Planting chard is fun because it has funky-shaped seeds, which have spikes like hedgehogs. Chard can be eaten raw (as in baby chard, common in salad mixes) or grown larger for its colorful stalk (like celery) and broad, nutritious leaf. Chard freezes well and is great in sautés. I like chopping and freezing it, then crumbling it straight into a buttery frying pan to start out my omelets and scrambles with a healthy kick.
If you’re not sure you want a whole pot of it, chard is beautiful enough that you can make it the taller “thriller” in a decorative flower pot (which in gardener speak usually has a tall thriller, a medium-height filler, and a drapey spiller for the fullest effect).
Pot: 12” would suffice
Light: Full to partial sun
Time: Plant up your pot in April.
Type: Two varieties boast fantastic colors. Bright Lights’ seeds look the same but will sprout in red, orange, yellow, gold, and white. Electric Neon comes in red, bright pink, hot orange, and yellow. Half the fun is seeing what colors sprout up!
Tip: Chard is a cousin of beets, but will not develop the round beet root so you only eat the leaves. Studies show it’s one of the most nutritious vegetables you can grow. Only spinach has more nutrients!
The seeds are light and small, but they sprout quickly. Once leaves are bigger than your child’s thumb, let them pinch off the larger leaves and eat them right then and there (and when would you ever expect to see them do that?) Lettuce is pretty forgiving as long as it doesn’t get too much hot afternoon sun and is regularly watered.
Pot: 6-8 inches deep, as wide as you’d like. Lettuce is one of the few vegetables that will happily grow in a small pot.
Light: Morning sun and afternoon shade works really well. Too much sun and heat cause problems for lettuce greens. Did you know lettuce can get sunburned? The leaves turn almost translucent gray-green-brown and generally unhappy. Pick those leaves off and move the pot to a shadier spot.
Time: Plant seeds outside starting in March. You can plant a new pot each week or two to keep a harvest going through June!
Type: Look for “cut and come again” or Mesclun varieties that let you give the entire plant a haircut 3-4 times before it’s done. Mesclun comes with all sorts of colors and leaf types, which is fun! I also love Buttercrunch lettuce, which has a firmer leaf and sweet taste, but you harvest that best leaf by leaf, leaving the smaller center leaves to keep growing.
Tips: As the summer grows hotter, lettuce bolts (which means it sends up a flower stalk and tries to make seed, which often turns the lettuce leaves sour or bitter) so consider lettuce for May-June and then start another round in late August-October.
Radishes and Carrots (in the same pot!)
Intersperse these seeds because radishes grow super fast, and carrots do not. In about a month your kiddos can pull the radishes (they’ll have wide leaves, while the carrots will have just gotten the tiniest frilly leaf going). Pulling the radishes is a task for your older kids with fine motor-skills (or leave an easy, isolated radish for your young one to pull). There’s something strangely satisfying about pulling the radishes, which will aerate the soil and help the carrots grow!
Pot: You’ll want something longer than the carrots, obviously, so anywhere from 8-12” deep or more, and wide for more fun.
Light: full sun
Type: French Breakfast radishes aren’t as spicy as others, but radishes and carrots come in all shapes and sizes (including Easter Egg radishes, which come in all colors), so have fun! Try Purple Dragon or Carnival Blend carrots to mix things up!
Tips: When you see the radishes’ shoulders (the tops) pop up out of the soil, pull them and gently tuck any loose soil back into the hole. Radishes, like other root vegetables, are great roasted with olive oil, salt, and pepper!
Keep watering the carrots for another month or more. Let the carrot leaves get as big and broad as your hand – your patience will reward you with bigger carrots, but if you (or more likely your kids, let’s be honest) are impatient, the little carrots are sweet and kid-sized!
General Veggie Planting Instructions
Because Colorado weather is so finicky, be prepared to cover your pots or bring them inside if you can manage it. These veggies are considered cool season, meaning they can handle the cooler night temperatures. Generally anything below 26 degrees harms these hardier plants once they’ve sprouted, but if you situate your pots near the house, they may benefit from the warmth your house absorbs during the day. Covering or wrapping your pots and plants with a sheet, towel, or comforter on the really frigid nights will often be all the protection they need to make it through a bitterly cold night. But with the right sized pot, you can also bring them indoors!
These are just a few of the many veggies that are fun to grow with kids. Consider taking your children with you to a local garden store to pick out seeds or cool weather plant starts, especially if your seeds didn’t take off. Other cool weather crops like kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, and strawberries are great to plant out, too. You’ll have some garden fun in no time!