Get the Kids Excited About Gardening



Hello fellow gardening enthusiasts!

March is the best month of the year to plant in San Diego County. Spring is around the corner, with things starting to warm up with more sunlight each day. You can still be successful planting many of your winter favorites. Not only will we continue to plant our cool season crops such as lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and peas, but we are well underway with plantings of some of our warm season spring favorites such as tomatoes, peppers, green beans, squash, melons and cucumbers.

Here at Sunshine Care, A Community of Assisted Living Homes in Poway CA, we have a Children’s Garden which is separate from our other organic gardens that supply fresh produce for all of our residents and families in need in the Poway/ Rancho Penasquitos area. In the Children’s Garden, we have local home- schooled kids and preschoolers, come and learn how to work the ground to yield delicious organic produce. They are quick to learn and do a fantastic job due to their eagerness to embrace the idea of growing your own bounty. This is our Seed to Table Program, where the children and residents seed together in our greenhouse, then plant what they have seeded in the garden. Finally, the children share the tasty treats with their “Grandmas and Grandpas”. We have had children as young as nine months to fourteen years of age, learning how to grow their own produce.

It’s a beautiful thing that I feel is a necessity!

The best way to get the future gardeners excited about growing their own, is to plant fruits and vegetables that they know they like to eat and things that grab their eye.

Here are some big hits in our Children’s Garden.

SNOW PEAS and SNAP PEAS- We weigh all the produce grown, but this data is rather skewed because for every pea that is put in the bag, there are two that go in the mouth. They are extremely sweet and delicious.

We tend to seed everything first in the greenhouse then bring the starters out to the garden, but in the month of March, snow and snap peas can be directly seeded in the garden. The seeds are large and easy for the kid’s to manipulate. Our old stand-by of snow pea is “Avalanche”. They can be seeded 1”-1.5” down the row and don’t require thinning. They can get to be 3’-4’ high so you might want to figure out some trellis system for them. We use tomato stakes and twine.

We tried another snow pea as well this year- “Golden Sweet”, a yellow-podded snow pea with attractive purple flowers. It’s that grabbing –your- eye thing that I was talking about.

The other pea we have the kids seed is “Sugar Snap Pea”, an extremely flavorful snap variety.

Seeds for all three can be purchased from Johnny’s Selected Seed, on line or from their catalog.

CARROTS- Kids love carrots! I have to strongly tell the children to wash them before tasting them. They can’t wait to put them in their little mouths.

The best tip I have for direct seeding carrots is to find varieties that are pelleted, which means that the tiny seeds are treated with an inert material that enables the children to seed with more ease and to avoid huge clumps of seeds being tossed into the ground. This will give them a more uniform planting pattern and require much less thinning of the germinated carrots when they pop out of the ground.

Don’t just grow orange carrots but also go with the colored varieties. White, yellow, red and purple varieties are available also from Johnny’s. White Satin, Yellowpak, Purple 68 and Purple Haze will add lots of color to your salads and spark the child’s appetite.

For quicker gratification, try Adelaide, a true baby carrot or Mokum.

CHERRY TOMATOES- Pound for pound there is nothing like the flavor of cherry tomatoes. The kids planted 16 varieties last week in their garden. Sometime in June, we will have our annual taste test to select the most flavorful cherry tomato of the year. Both residents and children are involved in the taste test. Here are some of the past favorites.

Sun Gold- This one is a perennial favorite of the residents and kids. They are an exceptionally sweet, bright tangerine-orange cherry tomato. They tend to split precluding shipping for commercial growers, thus making them a fresh- market treat. The intense fruity flavor can’t be beat!

Black Cherry- A very sweet and robust cherry that is almost black in color. The flavor is dynamic- much like an heirloom.

Orange Sunshine- Anything with Sunshine in the name has to be a winner! A beautiful orange colored cherry that is as sweet and flavorful as Sun Gold. The quality of these bright beauties can’t be topped.

Jelly Bean- These are grape-like fruits aptly named for their bite-size sweetness and intense colors. Heavy clusters of up to 30 fruit are common. Both red and yellow varieties are available.

Seed for these varieties are available from Johnny’s Selected Seed and Totally Tomato either on-line or from the catalogs that are easily ordered.

That should give you enough ideas to get the kids excited about growing their own produce and hopefully pass it down to future generations.

Again, if it tastes great, they will grow it. If it is colorful, it will spark their interest.

Any questions or comments, feel free to contact me-

Roy Wilburn, Horticulture Manager at Sunshine Care, 858-472-6059 or

Feel free to ask for a tour of the gardens and campus.

Categories: Horticulture, Memory Care

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