We have put together a guide about gardening with children, with three steps: Choosing the seeds, Sowing the seeds, and Planting. We have used our Resident Chief Product Tester, Charlotte (6 years old) to help us with the experience by going through the steps with her.
To start, we asked Charlotte to make a list of what she would most like to grow, her top three choices were: Nasturtiums, Carrots and Tomatoes. Not surprising as some of her favourite foods are carrot cake, tomatoes chopped with mozzarella in salad.
Funnily enough, she never used to touch salad, however now she is growing her own ingredients to add in she absolutely loves it!
We then helped Charlotte choose her seeds, choosing a variety of Rainbow Carrots (Cosmic Purple, Atomic Red, Solar Yellow and Amsterdam Orange) she was very excited with the idea of all the different colours. She also chose Sweet Cherry Tomatoes to put in her salads, as well as the new addition of Nasturtiums, an edible flower with a peppery flavour, she was amazed that she could add her own flowers to her food!
With her plan finalised we obtained the correct seeds and began sowing straight away.
Charlotte now knew what she wanted to grow. There are many different sowing techniques with different benefits for different plants.
We have found the easiest for children, and least space consuming way is to use Peat-free Coir compost discs. All you have to do is place them on a small dish, pour a bit of water on top, the discs absorb this and quickly expand ready for the seeds, plus the netting used is made from bio-degradable material that can be put straight in to a pot or the ground and is fine for the environment.
We had Charlotte use the end of a pencil to push her seeds in, the tomato seed only needed to go less than a centimetre, the nasturtium seeds and carrot seed needed to go in one centimetre.
Once they’re up, the seedlings need to grow in the lightest, brightest place. Charlotte chose her windowsill in her bedroom so she could keep a close eye on them. We also told her that plants grow faster when you talk to them, so she read them a bed time story every night.
The seedlings in Charlotte’s room began to pop up on a daily basis. All of her seeds were quick and easy to grow and bringing them to life is a hugely rewarding activity. However, we had our work cut out for us as we had a little patch of garden, just for Charlotte, that we had to prepare.
The patch is a great flatbed, so that Charlotte could get all the way around without having to step on to her spot. It also has full sun, away from the over-hanging of trees, and after the last frosts. This is important as the plants on her list grow rapidly. Luckily Charlotte was very determined, giving them enough food to fuel the process.
The tomatoes especially need a wind breaker, we found some unused fencing which we pushed in to the ground on the windy west side, this gave the more delicate things a better chance to survive and grow on the outside, and is also a cheap and temporary wind-break, that can be removed once the worst of the spring winds are over.
Soil preparation admittedly was the one thing that bored Charlotte during the process, so it was up to us to dig in grit and organic matter. We used 9mm pea shingle from the local builder’s yard for our grit, and for organic matter we used municipal compost and our own home-made.
Make sure you you clear the soil of perennial and annual weeds before you plant. Pull out any couch grass, bindweed, or ground elder.
Finally, before planting Charlotte’s garden, we had to set up some supports for her tomatoes, we made these out of some bamboo sticks we had left over from another craft activity. This provides a support where her plants can climb.With Charlotte’s garden growing well and her crops beginning to form, it is now her turn to pick recipes (with a little help), ready to transform her harvest in to a delicious meal!