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Edible gardening with toddlers – top tips for gardening with kids

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I love to spend time in the garden. I have fond memories of my Pop’s vegie garden and I want to make sure my girls have a great experience in the yard too. It has been fantastic for me as a Dad being able to spend quality time with my little girls watching them learn, grow and have fun, while at the same time getting the “chores” done.

One of the best things I find about having fruit and veggies in the yard is being able to eat it fresh from the tree or vine. If you pick the right plants and keep them healthy enough to withstand pests, or manage to keep them away, there is nothing better than munching on something straight from the plant. It is great to see the kids faces when the try something so fresh and watch them gobble down vegies that they have grown.  It’s quite funny to see, but our dog lines up for some fresh fruit and veg too and has even been known to help himself while the girls are picking.

We also love being able to pick the vegies fresh for cooking too. Our girls love to help out in the kitchen and its great for them to be able to see where the food comes from and how it is prepared.

We have a good sized backyard, and are fortunate to rotate through a few different crops through the year to find out what works best.  We have been successful, to Mummy’ surprise, growing most of what we have planted. When we have chosen plants, we pick things that we think will be great things for the kids to grow, that we love to eat, or sound a little bit interesting.  We love to try new plants so each season we try a different plant as well as some old favourites.

Some good rules for choosing plants for toddlers or kids are:

  1. Choose fruit or veg that can be eaten directly from the plant right there in the backyard.
  2. Choose some plants that are fast growing to retain attention of impatient kids and fast moving toddlers.
  3. Plant some plants from seed (try growing from seed using the toilet roll method) and some from seedlings again to retain little kid’s interest.
  4. Add some flowering plants to make the garden a little bit more interesting (and to pick for mummy).
  5. Add some herbs (try the space saving planter) -it’s fun to rub them and smell the different scents.
  6. Consider a compost system, it’s good fun, good learning and wiggly worms keep both girls and boys amused.

Here’s our top five best fruit and vegetable plants for kids.

These are all tried and tested here in a Canberra garden (Cold Regional Gardening Zone) and plants our kids love:

1. Strawberries

Most children love strawberries and you can plant them in pots, in hanging baskets or in the ground, and they are easy to grow.  Be sure to protect them so the snails and possums don’t get them or its bye-bye strawberries which can be very disappointing for a toddler. We like to grow some plants from seed so the girls can watch them grow.  One year Miss T decided that she wanted to investigate how they grew and dug them all out all over the kitchen floor. Its good to have a few back ups in another pot as it was very distressing when the strawberry plants couldn’t be rescued.

Best of all about strawberries, if you can avoid pests without chemicals, you can munch them in the garden.

2. Mulberries

We are lucky enough to have an established mulberry tree that is a prolific fruitier. The fruit is very soft which is why they don’t often appear in shops. They can be messy, which is part of the fun, but they are a wonderfully fresh and delicately sweet flavour. We eat them from the tree, have them in breakfast cereal, and this year we’ll try making mulberry ice cream.  If you don’t like the mess try a white mulberry tree.

 3. Raspberries

This was a real surprise. Fast growing but intrusive, so be careful. Again, they are edible straight from the plant, and are tasty. It’s also pleasing to eat them cheaply because they are expensive to buy. One problem – given a chance, our gluttonous dog would happily sit in the middle of the plant and pull all of them off and eat them in one sitting.

 4. Tomatoes

There is nothing like a home grown tomato. We plant only a few and usually can’t eat everything we get. Cherry toms are tasty and easy to eat in the garden on the run. Yellow tomatoes seem to grow well and are interesting and if you aren’t fussy about the spot you have them, they’ll self seed and grow again the next year. They do need some work to set up: good soil (composting is handy), support structures, plenty of water and sun, but we find them the most rewarding to grow.

 5. Snow peas

Another surprise, snow peas were easy to grow, very quick to grow, and tasted incredible. The girls love snow peas, and we often need to make two trips to harvest, because the first lot never make it to the plate. They are also a very pretty plant, and if you plant along with snap dragons or sweetpeas, it can be quite beautiful.

 So that’s my tips for a great adventure in the backyard, but you know what even if I didn’t have a backyard and only had pots I think I would still be up for the challenge as it’s just been so much fun.

This post is by Joel from Not Another Baby Shop, Joel lives in Canberra with his partner Holly and their two gorgeous girls.

Yearly Flower Growing Guide by Temperate Zone Yearly Vegetable, Fruit & Herb Growing Guide by Temperate Zone

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