Raised vegetable garden beds are the perfect way to introduce children to growing fresh food on their own. Additionally, gardening with your kids is a fun, rewarding way for you to spend quality time together. You can enjoy fresh air while they learn about plants and sustainable food options.
Although you can grow vegetables in a variety of ways, from containers to a traditional veggie patch, raised garden beds work much better for children. A couple of 4 x 4 beds allow your kids to have a select space to garden on their own, and the small size is perfect for them. Let their imaginations run wild as they play in the dirt and learn as they work, without harming any of your crops.
For the best results, you need vegetables that will do well in raised beds. They also need to be easy enough for beginners to grow. The process will become even more fun if your kids enjoy eating the veggies they grow. Kids are notoriously picky eaters, so it’s best to grow the varieties they enjoy. After all, radishes might do well in raised beds, but will your kids really want to eat them?
8 Child-Friendly Options for Raised Vegetable Garden Beds
Use the following list of child-friendly vegetables in your raised beds as a starting place, and make sure to select plants that will prosper in your growing space. Take the sunlight, water, soil, and temperature requirements into consideration before sowing any seeds.
The traditional carrot variety, Danvers, is rich in antioxidants and kids enjoy pulling them out of the dirt during harvest season. The purple variety called Purple Dragon is also fun to grow because it’s such a fun color. There are also smaller varieties that are easy for kids to grow on their own.
How to Plant in Raised Beds: Sow the seeds directly into the soil during the spring, and be patient—carrots take around 60 days to grow.
2. Cherry and Grape Tomatoes
Kids love growing smaller varieties of their favorite vegetables. As a result, cherry or grape tomatoes are both great options, and perfect alternatives to larger varieties that require a lot of growing space. Your little ones will enjoy using these tomatoes as their own little bite-sized snacks.
There are many types to choose from, but Matt’s Wild tomatoes are perfect. This is because they’re smaller than most, and each vine produces a lot of tomatoes. They’re great in summer salads or for eating right off the vine.
Plus, you can save space in your raised beds by selecting smaller varieties. This will leave you more space to grow other veggies or companion plants.
How to Plant in Raised Beds: It’s easier to start your tomato plants indoors by selecting plants from your local garden nursery in April or May. Transplant them into a raised garden bed full of rich soil around mid-May. Cherry and grape varieties will ripen early in the season, and all varieties will do well with support like a cage.
For kids, the best part about growing potatoes is harvesting them. Pulling the spuds out of the soil is like searching for buried treasure, and you can grow any variety you want from kitchen scraps! Although, the varieties you find in your local garden nursery are less likely to have diseases.
Yukon Gold potatoes are a great traditional option that has a short growing season. Kids also enjoy growing Viking Purples, which are fun.
How to Plant in Raised Beds: Plant seed potatoes 4 inches deep in moisture-retentive soil. Be sure to add in fresh compost near the plants in your raised vegetable garden beds a couple of times during the growing season. Potatoes enjoy colder temperatures, so you can begin planting anytime between March and June.
If your kids don’t like cucumbers, they may enjoy eating pickles. Growing your own cucumbers is easy in raised vegetable garden beds. Additionally, the two very different ways of eating them offer you a few ways to get your kids to eat more greens.
There are many cucumber varieties to choose from, but I enjoy Marketmore cucumbers. I’ve only grown this type a couple of times, without any issues each time. Another fun option your kids might enjoy is Mexican Sour Gherkins, which grow to around 1-inch and look like little cucumber-flavored watermelons. If you have leftovers, you can always use them to make pickles as well.
How to Plant in Raised Beds: Cucumbers have larger seeds, which you can direct sow during late-May or early-June. Try planting 6-8 seeds and thin the crop to the three strongest seedlings for the best results. You can also trellis cucumbers to save space.
Many children learn to grow beanstalks in elementary school science class. This is because they grow quickly, which encourages young children to learn about both science and growing vegetables. There are many fun ways to begin growing beans as well, from starting crops on cotton balls to sprouting seeds in a plastic bag.
Fortex beans are a tasty option that many kids enjoy. They’ll also climb high, which makes them perfect to grow on trellises or bean teepees. Low bush bean varieties are also easy for kids to harvest, and don’t require support or a trellis to grow.
How to Plant in Raised Beds: Try planting a small patch of beans by sowing the seeds about 4 inches apart directly into the soil. They should germinate in around 4 to 8 days, and will fully mature within 65 days.
6. Snap Peas
Sugar snap peas are delicious, and the variety called Cascadia is requires less support than most other types. You don’t need to shell these peas, so you can even eat them right off the vine. Little Marvel Dwarf is another great one for kids to shell and search for the treasure inside the pea pods.
To add a layer of difficulty and creativity, try using arched trellises over your raised vegetable garden beds to grow the peas. Your kids can build a fun structure and you can grow more food by cultivating smaller, shade-loving plants beneath the trellis.
How to Plant in Raised Beds: Peas need support, and tomato cages are easy to push into your raised vegetable garden beds. Plant your peas an inch deep and around two inches apart around the base of the cage, and water. Expect the seeds to germinate in two weeks or so, and harvest around two or three months later.
Children tend to like bell peppers, and there are many varieties that offer a sweet flavor. They’re perfect for snacks, and red peppers are often the sweetest options.
Try Johnny’s Red Lunchbox peppers: they’re a small, very sweet variety with a large yield. With this variety, you won’t need to worry about blossom end rot and other common issues with growing peppers.
How to Plant in Raised Beds: Transplant pepper seedlings by digging a hole around 6 to 8 inches deep in the bed, leaving around 10-15 inches between plants. Add compost into the hole before placing the plants in and covering them with soil. The peppers will mature during the summer, and you can harvest the plants as soon as the fruit grows to a desirable size.
Greens are healthy, and although most kids won’t want to eat a head of lettuce directly from the garden, they make a great crop for kids to grow. They grow quickly and relatively reliably, so your children can receive quick results and learn to make salads.
When growing lettuce, you can select either head or leaf varieties. Head lettuce will have a growing season of around 40 to 50 days, whereas leaf lettuce takes a little less time at around 30 to 35 days.
How to Plant in Raised Beds: Sow the seeds directly into moist soil. Offering them shade is important, and the seeds will begin to germinate after around seven days.
Bonus: 2 Awesome Companion Flowers for Raised Veggie Beds
The best kid-friendly gardens are bright and colorful. Children love adding in varying colors, and you can add extra magic by tucking in a few flowers as companion plants to your vegetable beds. You can then up the difficulty level for your children by intercropping small and large veggies to grow more in less space.
Try intercropping tomatoes, peppers, or eggplant together, or a combination or lettuce, tomatoes, or eggplants. Bush beans grow quickly, which makes them perfect to grow between slower plants such as peppers or tomatoes. Or, you can combine a few shade-loving plants together like lettuce, arugula, spinach, and other greens for a salad garden.
Flowers—typically annuals—can also benefit your vegetable garden. They do this by attracting beneficial insects to the garden while helping the garden thrive.
Nasturtiums are disease-resistant, easy-to-grow flowers that produce fast results. These flowers will encourage little gardeners to keep up the good work, and will bloom around 50 days after you plant them. The flowers are edible, repel pests, and come in colors such as red, orange, and yellow.
They’re also available in dwarf varieties, making them perfect for raised vegetable garden beds. Plant them in a sunny, dry area with rich soil, alongside cucumbers, squash, pumpkin, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, radishes, tomatoes, or potatoes.
Pot marigolds, also known as calendula (Calendula officinalis), come from the daisy family and are edible flowers. Their flavor is often bitter, but the bright orange color is a great addition to a lush green garden. They also repel some pests, such as tomato hornworms, and a better grown away from peas.
Traditional marigolds (Tagetes species) deter rabbits, tomato hornworms, whiteflies, and bean beetles from your plants. They’re common in various types of gardens, especially near tomatoes. Perfect for cut flowers, marigolds are gorgeous annuals that make great companion plants.
Plant your marigolds with bush beans, kale, potatoes, or Chinese cabbage.