“Mama, look at our potatoes!” Nothing makes my heart sing as much as those words shouted by my six year old son. We planted the tubers a few weeks ago and they have finally emerged from the soil. In a few more weeks we will begin “grubbing” or robbing tiny new potatoes from under the straw mulch before we dig them up in early June.

Growing a garden with family creates wonderful quality time but can quickly become overwhelming when the calendar is overflowing. Enjoy homegrown flavor and make memories with these tips for starting a family-friendly vegetable garden:

Start small, really small. Experienced gardeners will tell you that large-scale vegetable gardens are time consuming. Raised beds and containers make gardening easier and less time consuming as you learn what you enjoy growing and eating.


Place your garden where plants will receive at least 6 hours of full sun and be sure you have easy access to water. Container gardening will require more frequent watering during the summer. Fortunately, kids love watering the garden and everything else within a six-foot radius.

Choose crops with kid appeal. My son loves new potatoes, tiny ‘Sungold’ tomatoes and cucumbers which we harvest while they are still small and ‘fun-sized’. We keep kitchen shears handy so he can harvest mint, chives, and mesclun lettuce from containers on the back deck. I can see his confidence blooming with each harvest he brings into the kitchen.

amy dabbs 2 chives growing in container on back deck

Herbs like basil, thyme, and oregano are easy to grow and their flowers attract beneficial insects that control pests naturally. Zinnias, marigolds, and sunflowers are easy to grow from seed and provide nectar rewards for visiting bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. They also make beautiful bouquets when clutched in grubby little hands.

marigold grow easily from seed + attract beneficial insects amy dabbs

If you’re ready to dig in but not sure where to begin, start with the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service’s Home & Garden Information Center www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic . The site can be searched by topic for research-based gardening information.

The Tri-County Master Gardeners are experienced gardeners who volunteer, answering calls and emails in the Charleston Extension office M-F 9am-noon and 1pm-4pm. They can also be found dispensing gardening advice to area gardeners at local farmer’s markets and other garden related events. Reach them at 843.722.5940 ext. 301 or charlestonmastergardener@gmail.com


Amy L. Dabbs is the Clemson Consumer Horticulture Extension Agent for Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester Counties. Reach her at adabbs@clemson.edu or 843.722.5940 ext 122.

Amy L. Dabbs
Urban Horticulture Extension Agent
Clemson Extension
Berkeley, Charleston & Dorchester