Rubus fruticosus, commonly known as the Blackberry shrub, naturally grows throughout the UK. Other species that are more naturalized in North America, include the Rubus laciniatus and Rubus armeniacus. This deciduous perennial shrub can be planted in full sun, and the fruiting canes are best managed along a fence line. Even though the Blackberry shrub is known as “one of the easiest fruits to grow at home,” it has canes up to 6 feet long in every direction and can sometimes be difficult to maintain (Reference Arborday). The Natchez Thornless Blackberry and the Arapaho Thornless are good options because they are much easier and safer for children to pick from. This shrub flowers in zone 8 in the late spring and zone 5 in the early summer and produces berries, which turn from green to red to black. The window for picking a ripe berry may only be 24 hours, so berries require regular picking as they begin to ripen.
Blackberries are technically not considered berries, but instead are aggregate fruits which are composed of many drupelets. Blackberries are known for having a good amount of antioxidants and fiber which can provide health benefits. These healthful “aggregate fruits” can be used to make many different types of food including pies, jams, jellies, and even wine. In my personal experience, blackberry wine is unique and a good option if you’re looking to try new and interesting things. A good nonalcoholic drink recipe to try out is the “4th of July Blast Smoothie” which is perfect for the upcoming holiday. You can serve this blackberry flavored drink at a holiday party this summer, or just enjoy it by the pool.
For Kids – The radish is another fast germinating and fast growing vegetable taking only 22-30 days to mature depending on the variety. The fast germination of these plants is a quick reward for your child’s effort to start their own garden, and the bright interesting root will quickly begin to show which tells your child they are almost ready. These small plants still may look like weeds after germinating for 7-10 days, but they will soon show the obvious radish root while the foliage clears the height of other similar looking weeds. Radishes may not be a usual favorite to eat raw; however, this is a great vegetable to use raw in coleslaw or sliced into a stir-fry with other vegetables.
For the Garden – I prefer to start the radish outdoors, and directly sow them into the garden several times during their growing season. In climate zone 8a and south radish seeds can be sown through a majority of the year and even somewhat out of season. They can be planted relatively close together (about 2”-3” apart) compared to other root vegetables. Make sure that plants receive plenty of light during the day. It is always best to water plants in the morning, so make the effort to water gardens before starting your day.
Succulents are not a new interest for interior and exterior interest. However, the Kalanchoe daigremontiana is an especially interesting succulent that is easy to care for and even fun to have for children.
Kalanchoe daigremontiana is also known by many as the Mother of Millions. There are several similar varieties known as Mother of Thousands or Alligator Plant. All are a bit different looking, however, they all have the exact same interest that has made them valuable to me.
These types of Kalanchoes produce small babies off of the leaves of the mother plant. The babies form about 4 leaves and roots before dropping off the mother plant and rooting themselves in the soil where they drop. You can pluck many of these babies before they fall or wait for them to begin rooting before moving them to another location.
I would recommend ordering this plant or a similar variety over the internet as they are particularly difficult to find. I rarely see them, but when I do they have been at small family owned nurseries, and they have just one or two available. Cuttings, bare root plants, and babies travel well in the mail and root easily which is why this is preferred for a quality plant from growers (many of which are in California).
Peas in general are fast germinating and fast growing which makes them a great indoor container plant or garden plant for kids to grow on their own. The fast germination of these plants are a quick reward for your child’s effort to start their own garden, and the fast growth rate will show them daily progress they can record and enjoy. After transplanting their plants outdoors children can watch their Sugar Snap Peas climb using tendrils, develop variegated leaves, begin to flower with creamy white blooms, and then watch pea pods emerge from the blossoms knowing they will soon be able to pick and eat them. If you have trouble convincing your child to eat greens, then having a garden just for them to take care of may help solve your problem.
For the Garden
Sugar Snap Peas can be started indoors or directly sowed outdoors in fall or spring. Peas that are started too late in fall may survive the winter in zone 9, but they will not put on flowers or fruit until the following spring. I personally find that sowing them outdoors allows them to stay more compact when first growing as opposed to getting leggy when they receive too much water and light when started indoors. I plant all Sugar Snap Peas along a wire fence so that tendrils can grab and climb to support the soft tissue plant as well as the additional weight of the pods when it begins fruiting. Make sure that sugar snap peas receive plenty of light during the day. It is always best to water plants in the morning, so make the effort to water gardens before starting your day. Pick pods when they are about 4 inches in length. If you rarely cook with sugar snap peas, then try them in a stir fry or as a raw snack by themselves or with a vegetable dip.