Want to garden with your baby or toddler, but not sure where to start? I get it, gardening with youngsters can seem daunting at first. Getting the party started with snap peas and following these tips can help get you going, and you’ll see just how easy and rewarding it can be. Even just a little time in the garden can go a long way!

Why Start with Peas?

Well for starters, peas are delicious, and I definitely only grow things I want to eat or try. Russell will always eat a pea, and we even put them right into his snack cup. They’re such a familiar veggie. We boil frozen ones literally all the time for an easy green on the plate. So it was fun to see his wheels turning when he harvested one himself and tried it right out of the ground.

Another one of my favorite things about planting peas is that here in the South, you can pretty much plant them any time. Every pea packet I’ve ever seen says “As soon as soil can be worked.” Here that is literally…almost all year, it’s just a little too hot for them in the summertime. We planted pea seeds with Russell in early February when he was just a year old.

Also – they are the perfect size for baby fingers to grab and plant. Pea seeds are just dried up full-grown peas, and so they have a nice chunk to them that babies and maneuver easily.

Choosing Seeds

Ordering seeds is definitely a super fun part of the process for me, I love a good seed catalog! So this was new to me in choosing pea seeds, but there are “shelling peas” and “snap peas.” I don’t really think you can go wrong with either. But if you want the kind of peas that are like the green peas we eat with mashed potatoes, you’re going to want to plant shelling peas. This is one of my favorite varieties of peas from Sow True Seed in Asheville, NC:

And these are what you might get if you enjoy eating the whole pea or if you’re super into cooking stir fries:

Wondering what seeds to plant and when? I always go to Cooperative Extension’s planting calendar, they have the best advice for whatever area you are in. Here is ours.

Planting Seeds

Planting seeds can be so fun, especially on a small scale so it doesn’t get overwhelming. I think we literally planted 10 pea seeds, grandma just gave us a small handful she had that were extra, but it provided such a rich learning and caring experience for Russell. There is really no need to plant row after row of things, especially if you’re just starting out. Gardening with any age can really be about the learning experience, it is not always a time to get super picky and try to have the highest yield.

I also want to show you the FULL picture of where we planted these peas. This has to be the ugliest garden ever right? Our dog literally dug a hole in the middle. But it just goes to show it doesn’t matter, and it doesn’t take anything fancy or a lot of real estate to have a good gardening experience with your family. Keeping it simp and low pressure, especially with this age group and especially for parents of this age group, is the best way to go.

Step-by-Step: How to Plant Peas

Here are the simple steps to planting peas. Let your baby or toddler help you! They can poke holes in the soil, play in it, put seeds in the ground, or just listen to you describe what you are doing. I promise, they are always listening and they will definitely want to try!

Once you get started and see all they can do, it will become evident based on their age how they can participate, but here are some ideas along the way:

  1. Get a small container of soil or a pick a row in a garden bed. Babies will love to help you fill your container with soil.
  2. Dig a furrow or little baby trench just deep enough for your seeds. Generally, seeds need to be planted as deep as about 2 times the size of the seed. So for peas that’s about 1/2 inch.
  3. Grab your pea seeds, and place them in the row. Ideally a couple of inches apart, but this does not need to be precise. Do a couple yourself, then offer seeds to your baby to plant.
  4. Gently cover the seeds with soil, patting them gently.
  5. This is a great time for a song. It can be silly and made up like “Grow Little Seed, Grow Little Seed, We love you! We love you” to the tune of Frère Jacques. Singing to plants actually helps them grow! So imagine what singing to our children can do?
  6. Give them a good watering, and water them 1-2 times a week. I say this, but I don’t think we watered our peas at all, and they did just fine!

Also, look at that pincer grasp! Proud mom moment. Gardening is so good for young children for so many reasons we wouldn’t ordinarily think of, like developing fine motor skills.

Harvesting + Eating

We planted back in February, but we just harvested in early May. It took a little over 2 months to get a pea, and in the mean time we checked on the growth, talked to our peas, sang them songs. They were pretty fun to watch. I really thought a toddler would be more destructive in the garden, but really these little plants are so tough!

Toddler harvesting peas in the garden

When they have fully formed their peas, you can just pluck them off the vine together, talking through it the whole way – “Wow this one looks ready! Should we look inside? Oh those are perfect little peas! I want to try one do you? Mmmmm they taste so fresh!” I have a lot more info on tasting new foods outside here, for some helpful tips if this sounds hard at first.

Things you don’t expect will definitely happen:

This is really like, a MAGICAL moment, feel free to totally soak it up and lay on thick your voice of surprise and wonder. I mean if you think about this too hard it will blow your mind. We plant dried up peas as seeds, and they then make loads more peas? Amazing.

Have you started planting your garden? What are your family’s favorite things to grow?

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