Most children love both to play in dirt and to use the water hose. There you have the main components of a garden project, although some of ours will not require any dirt. These are tiny garden projects that are economical to do, but they can pay off big in fun. Try one or two, and you may be inspired to share the fun of a full-fledged vegetable garden with your grandkids.
1. Sunny Side Up
Photo © Peggy Greb | USDA
Sunflowers have several things going for them that make them great choices for kids. One, they get really tall. Two, they have really big flowers. Three, their flowers turn into something that a kid can eat, or feed to the birds. If your assistant gardener is on the short side, there are sunflowers that stay kid-sized instead of shooting up to the stratosphere.
2. Bean Sprouts for Little Sprouts
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Because a bean is a large seed and behaves in a typical seed fashion, it can provide one of the best lessons in how plants grow. For a science lesson, put the beans between a coil of paper and the outer part of a jar so kids can watch them grow. For food, sprout mung beans in a glass jar. You can also plant them the traditional way, in the garden.
3. Gourds in All Guises
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Vines can be fascinating to kids, and gourd vines are even more so because amazing-looking objects grow on the vines. You and your grandchildren can grow ornamental gourds for fall decorating. Also consider planting luffas that can be turned into bath sponges, or gourds that can be turned into birdhouses, dippers or maracas. The possibilities are endless!
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With their fleshy leaves, succulents are a different kind of plant for kids to experience. Many of these attractive plants are also very easy to propagate. The type commonly known as "hens and chickens" will grow a new rosette-shaped plant at the base of any leaf that is broken off and left on damp soil. It's a good way to teach the grandchildren that not all plant growth comes from seeds.
5. In Mint Condition
Photo © Michael Thompson | USDA
An herb garden is a great project for grandkids, but if you don't have the space or energy for a full-fledged one, at least plant a few sprigs of mint. It will grow like a house afire, and the grandkids will enjoy its fragrance. The more adventurous of them might even try a little in their juice or in their salad.
6. Pumpkins for Punkins
Photo © David Wagner
The pumpkin is similar to the gourd in that it is easy to grow and fun to watch growing. Kids, of course, like them because of their association with Halloween. Grow the tiny ones to add to fall decorations or to give to the kids for decorating with markers. Grow the larger ones for jack-o-lanterns.
7. Sweet Potato Vine
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In the fifties, many kitchen windows were decorated by a vine that wound its way halfway across the room. The source of all this vegetation was a simple sweet potato, stuck with toothpicks and suspended in a glass of water. The grandkids will enjoy seeing something from the produce department turned into a house plant. See detailed instructions on the container gardening site
8. Growing Guacamole
Photo © Haas Avocado Board
The next time you make that south-of-the-border favorite guacamole, save the avocado seed. Then give it the same treatment you gave the sweet potato, suspending it in water using toothpicks. This time, however, the pointed end goes up. And this time, once the roots are well developed and the leaves have appeared, you will need to plant it in soil in a sunny spot.
9. Salad Days
Photo © Scott Bauer | USDA
If you're encouraging the grandchildren to eat healthy foods
, don't overlook salads. Your grandkids can make their own salad by growing lettuce, tomatoes and carrots, for starters. The carrots are usually an special hit, as kids love to wash the dirt away from the carrot top so that the orange root is exposed, then give it a hefty yank to pull it out.
10. Room for Blooms
Photo © Maria Mosolova | Getty
Last but not least, grow something for the pure pleasure of it, such as colorful flowers. Artistic types can use the blooms to create a table centerpiece. Choose a hardy annual or perennial such as cosmos, zinnias or calendula. These all have substantial stems that make them easy to arrange.