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Kids gardening: Good for vitamin N

Photo courtesy Bonnie Plants

Photo courtesy Bonnie Plants

We hear a lot about vitamin deficiencies, and kids are not immune, frequently coming up short on their vitamin N for nature. One way to bolster their vitamin N is to get kids involved in gardening with something other than weeding. Even I hate to weed, but I love planting and growing stuff, and picking vegetables and flowers.

Crops like strawberries and purple carrots are fun for kids (and adults) to grow. Start small. Give children their own spot or pot in an area with at least six hours of direct sun, and reasonably close to a water source.

Allow them to select what they want to grow because they are more likely to eat the veggies and fruits. Certainly a few flowers, such as marigolds, would be all right, too. Feel free to narrow the field by suggesting eight or 10 crops that kids can choose from to fit the space available. Here are a few suggestions:

Strawberries

Everbearing or day neutral strawberries bloom and produce all summer long. Although a small planting will not yield dozens of strawberries, there should be enough to satisfy an occasional summer dessert. Tristar, Tristan and Tribute are cultivars to consider. (I grow Tristan in a window box.) Buy plants.

Carrots

Sure, carrots are orange, but they can also be purple, red, yellow and pink. The more dense the color, the higher the carotene and the better for you. Carrots are fairly easy to grow, especially in well-worked loose, loamy or sandy soil. Grow in a container that is at least 12 inches deep. Botanical Interests offers Carnival Blend, Atomic Red and Cosmic Purple carrots. Burpee has Kaleidoscope Mix, Rainbow Hybrid and Purple Dragon carrots. Sow seeds.

Green beans

Purple green beans are not only delicious, they are beautiful on the plant. The purple pods against the green leaves also make the vegetable easy to spot for picking at just the right size. Don’t be alarmed, though, because the beans turn green when cooked. Sow seeds. Some to consider: Royalty Purple from Rare Seeds, Purple Podded Pole from Burpee and Dwarf Velour French from Park Seed.

Cherry tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes are about the best producing plants in the garden. For most of the summer, you can pick a handful to munch on while wandering in the garden, or for a salad. Kids, in particular seem to like the yellow pear cherry tomatoes, but there are orange, black and purple types, too, with red the most common. Buy plants.

One of the best sources for getting our children and future gardeners involved is National Gardening Association’s Kids Gardening. You’ll find tips and techniques for families, classroom-ready lessons for educators and more.

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