How does your garden grow? With help from the kids, we hope! Planting vegetables has been shown to help ward off picky eating and give kids an appreciation for nature, and it’s also a good time. “To me, working in the garden has always meant going outside and having a blast,” explains 12-yearold Emma Biggs. “I get to plant vegetables, water flowers, collect bugs, and get muddy!” It’s no wonder she feels this way: Her dad, Steve, is a horticulturist and loves to create opportunities for Emma to enjoy his passion for plants. (The two are even writing a kid-to-kid gardening guide due out next year.) Here, their ideas for getting your crew in on the action too:
CHOOSE A THEME
For an easy way to get started, group your plants around something your family already enjoys. You can do a mini garden for snack-size picnic foods, with plants such as cherry tomatoes, snap peas, or even mouse melons, which look like tiny watermelons. Or choose a recipe and plant all the fixings, like tomatoes, onions, and cilantro for a salsa. Favorite-color gardens are also fun: “A purple garden could have purple carrots, peas, beans, tomatoes, kale, and, of course, purple flowers,” says Emma.
TRY SOMETHING QUIRKY
“I also love growing unusual things,” Emma says. “Stuff that I won’t see in the supermarket.” Go for anything with a weird color, shape, or size, such as white carrots or Mexican sour gherkins, which are a little like a mini cucumber but also look like a watermelon. You can even grow no-heat jalapeños! “I like to take these in my lunch to show my friends at school,” she adds.
CONSIDER A PROJECT
“The garden should be a space where everyone can hang out together,” says dad Steve. Especially with kids, it’s not always about harvesting the crop. Build tepees out of climbing bean plants, or bring in a few bales of hay that kids can use as giant blocks. Some plants can even double as art supplies: Magenta spreen is a purple herb that will leave a pink pigment when rubbed on the skin or on paper. “We never even got around to eating that one, because we were so busy playing with it!” Emma says.