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If the idea of growing a broccoli forest isn‘t quite enticing enough, why not tempt their sweet tooth with a few sugary-snacks they can pick right off the vine?
Introducing kids to garden fresh sweets is a fantastic way to get them gardening (and eating from the garden). Plus, most perennial fruiting plants are some of the simplest to grow and they’re chock full of nutrients for growing bodies. And, varieties exist that perform well on tiny apartment balconies as well as big, sprawling farms.
Strawberries: These juicy morsels are ripe and ready for eating just before summer. June is the month to look for tasty berries ripe off the vine; February is when they‘re available to buy from nurseries as 'bare root', which is much less expensive than when theyíre potted up for sale later in the season. Strawberry pots are a fun way for kids to tuck in several plants all over a container, water them through the season, and devour the yield right about the time they get out of school for summer.
Raspberries: Raspberries grow on canes and require a bit more space than container-friendly strawberries. If you’ve got room, order a few bare-root canes in winter. Just about the time those June-bearing strawberries are beginning to wane, your kids will be pawing through the raspberry patch looking for the next, first sweet morsels of summer.
Blueberries: Blueberries are incredibly easy to grow. They love the soils of North America. Plus, the range in cultivars is mind-boggling. Varieties like 'Top Hat' are perfect in tiny pots planted by little hands. Semi-evergreen performers like 'Sunshine' look pretty year-round and offer up tasty berries just where toddlers can reach. Not sure what’s best for your garden? Check with a local nursery. Whether you live in Massachusetts or Los Angeles, there’s a plant out there that will have your kids faces turning blue by July!
Huckleberries: Huckleberry is native to North America, and like its cultivated cousin the Blueberry performs superbly. Plus, Evergreen Huckleberry looks great in many garden settings. Given the right exposure, it makes for an attractive, edible hedge in place of traditional Boxwood. Ranging from 15' tall in native Oregon Coast settings to a mere 3' tall in urban settings, these plants bloom and fruit from mid-summer to fall. Filled with tasty purple-black fruit, this hardy shrub will have your kids harvesting after-school snacks from the garden come September.
Once you’ve planted these tasty fruits into the garden, donít forget to keep an eye out for their flowering period – usually starting around April. This is the perfect opportunity to teach your kids how busy bees pollinate a plant’s flower, which then becomes a coveted berry. More likely than not, once they observe this connection, theyíll be anxious to check the plants regularly in the weeks (and years) ahead to snatch up the first sweet morsel of the season.
Oh, and once they‘re hooked, they‘ll probably ask you about planting that broccoli forest.