Children are naturally curious about the world around them, and the garden is an obvious place to watch plants grow in an environment that’s both fun and educational. If you want to develop your kids’ understanding of the natural world, growing fruit, vegetables or flowers from seed is a great first step. Not only will it teach them how nature works, it will lay the foundations for taking responsibility, looking after something and feeling a sense of achievement at the results.
Plant growing tips with children
Ideally, you should involve your children in all parts of the gardening process, not simply the ‘planting bit’ – depending on the age of the child, obviously. This can include
- Preparing the garden space and choosing quirky or playful containers such as unusual pots, painted tins, old wellie boots or toy buckets.
- Getting everything you need together, including compost, seeds, child friendly watering cans and gardening tools, etc.
- Preparing the soil and carefully planting the seeds. See Seed Parade for a huge range of vegetable options.
- Teaching your kids not to overwater and start off by only putting a bit of water into the watering can, adding more as needed.
- Getting them to help with weeding around the plants, planting out, feeding and, most importantly, harvesting!
Of course, to fully engage the youngsters, it’s essential to make sure that their first gardening experiences are positive and fruitful. Don’t forget that boredom thresholds and patience levels will be much lower than for adults. It can take time to grow things – weeks and months – and it’s all too easy for the little ones to lose interest if it seems that nothing is happening.
For your best chances of success, it’s highly recommended that you choose easy seeds that are large enough for little hands to handle and germinate readily and quickly, so that the results are visible in minimum time. The quicker kids can see something happening, the more interested they’ll be in the process.
Easy plants to grow from seed
Fun plants to grow with children are fruit and vegetables that can be eaten, and any unusually shaped or sized plant that create a sense of wonder and capture the imagination. Think teensy weensy garden cress, cherry tomatoes perfect for little hands to pick, humongous pumpkins or giant sunflowers.
Indoors, you could try sowing mustard cress or salad seeds on a damp piece of kitchen towel and watch them grow day by day. Or put mung beans or alfalfa seeds in a seed sprouting jar and watch them germinate. Or suspend an avocado stone in water and watch it grow roots. Taking everyday foods and returning them to their natural plant form is an excellent way to get children to connect with the food they eat and where it comes from.
Good plants to grow from seed include
- Carrots (Daucus carota) should be sown thinly in a sunny veg bed for germination to take place after about 2 weeks. Try kid-sized Chantenay or Cosmic Purple carrots for added interest.
- Cherry tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum, var. cerasiforme) are little tasty snacks right from the vine and can be grown from containers, in a grow bag or in the ground.
- Courgettes (Cucurbita pepo) will be prolific producers once the plant has reached full maturity. During the summer, a daily check for new produce is essential – these are fast growers.
- Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) comes in lots of varieties and can be grown all year round. Seeds should start to sprout within 2 weeks of sowing.
- Pumpkins or squashes are always fun to grow. Start sowing in April/May to have a ready supply in good time for Halloween.
- Radishes (Raphanus sativus) are usually trouble free to grow, and the bright red roots are ready to harvest a month after sowing.
- Runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus) have the most enormous seeds – they really look like magic beans and will grow and grow!
- Spinach (Spinacea oleracea) is, obviously, Popeye’s favourite food. It’s a leafy crop that should be picked as soon as the leaves are big enough.
- Strawberries (Fragaria) are a must for any children’s garden. Try growing them in pots or hanging baskets to avoid slug damage.
- Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) never fail to wow, especially if you choose Giant, which reaches 3 metres in height, or Earthwalker which comes in a riot of colours including orange and terracotta.
Until Next Time… Charlotte x