The Q&A Archives: Safe plants for Pre-K

Question: I am a pre-k teacher. As a class we would like to start a garden. I would like a place where the students can observe the flowers,butterflies, bugs etc. I need to know what plants would you recommend that we use. Thanks, Pam

Answer: I would plant vegetables that the children love to eat (or could learn to) and are easy to grow from seed sown directly in the garden. Large seeds, such as beans, cucumbers, pumpkins and zucchini are easiest to plant and they sprout quickly. Radishes are the quickest to grow, though seeds are small. Sweet cherry tomatoes are a popular choice because they produce loads of bite-size treats that children can pick and eat straight from the garden.

I would also grow dramatic flowers such as sunflowers and zinnias, which have large, fast-growing seeds and produce bold, colorful blossoms. The "mammoth" variety grows to 9 to 12 feet tall and produces magnificent flower heads loaded with edible seeds. Both require warm soil and full sun.

You can also appeal to all the senses. Include herbs, such as basil and parsley, for garden grazing. Add fragrant plants, such as lemon verbena, rose-scented geraniums and pineapple salvia. Some plants are just for touching, like perennial lamb's ears with its soft, fuzzy leaves and silvery green color. In the flower department, snapdragons are favorites because of the flexible dragon's jaw that invites pinching.

Be sure to situate your garden in the sunniest spot available and get some adult volunteers to help prepare the soil. Dig out all the weeds and then spread 4-5" of organic matter over the top. Dig this organic matter into the soil to a depth of 6-8". When you amend the soil with organic matter you help enrich the soil, make it easier to dig in and help the soil hold just the right amount of moisture.

Best wishes with your new garden!

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