plants are "musts" in a child's gardening experience. They're just spectacular
in size or shape, whimsical in name, related to favorite kids' songs, or you
can do fun things with them "just because."
you're just getting started and want a "no-brainer" theme, or are eager to make
the striking gardening impressions that will no doubt hook each child on
gardening for life, here are 12 garden winners for you to consider.
can ask each family to supply one or more specimens here, start them from seed,
borrow divided perennials from friends, or buy them at the garden store. Follow
the instructions on the back of the seed packet or ask a garden mentor for
questions about spacing and so forth. Just remember to put the tall things in
back, and the short things in front, dig the dirt pretty deep, add a few bags
of compost and rake it in, and you'll be fine.
of these is expensive, though a few have special needs, listed below. So have
fun, and get gardening!
Sunflower - easy to grow from seed; get the tall
kind - shorter varieties are for flowers, not seeds - follow planting instructions
on back of seed packet; will need a tall pole to tie it to as it grows so that
it doesn't break in high winds; heads make pretty fall decorations, or leave
them on the ground as winter birdfeed, if they LAST that long (birds love
them!), or eat the seeds yourself for snack!
Snapdragon - you can buy seeds or starts in all
colors and heights; make great bouquet additions, and what childhood is
complete without making the "dragon" that the blossoms form "roar" with your
Coral Bells and Lily of the Valley - if you can find the more traditional white
flowers, then you can teach this old-fashioned spring kids' song:
White coral bells, upon a slender
Lilies of the valley 'neath my garden
Oh, don't you wish that you could make
That will only happen when the fairies
you have lilacs nearby, you can make a pretty May Day basket with these spring
Beanpole Tepee - If you can beg, borrow or buy four
to six really tall poles (bamboo, wood, coated metal, etc.), and plant two or
three pole bean seeds at the base of each, then cover the inside with straw or
mulch, kids will have a favorite shady hangout for summer, and you'll all have
green beans coming out of your ears!
Hollyhocks - If you can borrow just a few more
tall poles, or have a tall fence you can stake these to, hollyhocks are a
beautiful and fabulous flower on a tall scale that's very impressive to
children. Girls will love to pretend that the blossoms are doll skirts and they
can play for hours with these living dolls.
Daisies - "He loves me, he loves me not" -
what child hasn't loved pulling off daisy petals one by one for that age-old
game? It's also fun to make daisy chains. You might want to get the perennial
Shasta daisy kind as well as the taller daisies that grow by seed. But beware:
once the latter kind get started, they spread fast through a garden!
Giant Cabbage or Pumpkin - Try growing just one or a couple of
oversized vegetables, and find poems and songs about cabbage and pumpkin
patches to read and sing with the gentle giants. Beware of squash bugs and
cabbage beetles, and check these veggies daily for invaders, who'll need to be,
Baby Carrots - The secret of these much-loved
kids' veggies is to dig the dirt very deep beneath, and around, where you'll
plant the seeds. You might want to add some compost as well as some sand to
make the soil as loose as possible. Sow seeds in rows and, with scissors, clip
away extra plants at the soil line after they've all sprouted, so that you have
enough air space between carrot tops. Be sure to have a camera to capture the
thrill in a child's face when he or she pulls out that first carrot! Have water
on hand to wash the dirt so that you can eat them straight out of the garden!
Nothing like it!
Cherry Tomatoes - A child who turns up his or her nose
at a sliced tomato on a plate will gobble cherry tomatoes like candy, especially
if he or she GREW those cherry tomatoes! They are sweet and taste best will
still warm from the sun, and there's a wonderful pleasure at eating them right
off the vine. You will need a cage or tower to support the growth of these
Gourd Tunnel - Install several lengths of flexible
plastic tubing in semicircles, about three feet apart, sinking each end at
least six inches in the dirt to keep them stable. You'll want at least six feet
of length. Stretch garden netting over all, to form a tunnel. Tie netting
securely. Layer clean straw or mulch on the inside "floor" of the tunnel. Now
plant two or three ornamental gourd seeds at the base of each tube support. In
no time, your tunnel should be covered with vines and lots of fun to crawl
through and hide within. At harvest time, let the gourds dry outside for a few
weeks past the first frost, or in a dry place on newspapers in your basement.
You can spray them with a clear sealer when completely dry, or paint them,
though they're decorative enough as they are. You might have to wait until the
following fall to use this year's crop as autumn decorations, or send them home
with each child.
Tulips - If you can remember to plant bulbs
the fall before, the plant parts are the easiest to see in a tulip blossom. Ornamental poppies also are a good
choice for teaching about plant "bodies" and you can plant them in early
Red Salvia - Plant a number of these, fairly
close together, for a good chance of attracting hummingbirds and butterflies.