People recommend radishes for encouraging kids to garden but I say BEANS! Beans germinate quickly; are easy to grow; are more visible; are sweeter; and the leaves are not as prickly as radishes. I grow pole beans in the ground and bush beans in containers on the deck and my kids love to pick them as a snack and for dinner.
This year, I am growing ‘Rolande’ bush beans from Renee’s Garden. Bush beans make a pretty “deck” plant, as long as the container has drainage holes, is large enough (mine are 12 inches wide and tall), and is in full sun. Although bush beans do not have to be staked like pole beans, I put a short stick in mine to lift the plant up to better find the beans. This particular type is called “filet” or “haricot vert.” The beans will grow to be very thin, no thicker than a pencil, and about 6 inches long. Because they are thin, they cook quickly. I grew mine from seed indoors in early May but I could have started them outdoors after the last average frost (mid-May in Northern Virginia). By the end of May, when I was sure that night time temperatures were staying in the mid-fifties, I transferred one seedling to one container which had been supplemented with granular vegetable fertilizer. The plant in this photo is quite lush, but it will put all its energy into producing beans quickly (I can already see beans) over a short period of time and then exhaust itself.
My pole beans will produce beans later in the summer, but over a longer period of time. They are a little more work in that I have make sure their tendrils climb up a pole (until they figure it out on their own) and I have to harvest for a longer period of time. Beans should be harvested often, sometimes as often as every other day, in order to encourage more beans. I am growing Renee’s Garden’s ‘Emerite.’ ‘Emerite’ is a filet type, just as thin as ‘Rolande’, but longer, about 7 to 8 inches. I have learned early on to keep it simple when it comes to beans. I don’t mix varieties in one place; I grow one type in one location so I know when to harvest that particular bean. With the filet type, I harvest when the beans are thin, so I know not to wait for them to “fatten up.” Fresh beans can be eaten raw or sautéed or steamed with herbs such a parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, savory, tarragon, or dill. Garlic or onion is good as well as sliced almonds.