Grow with your children!
Would you like to grow vegetables with your children but don’t know where to start?
Now is the perfect time to learn together. Getting outdoors, and horticulture in particular is proven to have mental health benefits for all, which is why many therapeutic settings have a horticultural aspect. Enjoy the wonder of growth and new life that Spring brings with your children.
Some of these projects just need a windowsill, for others you may need a garden or any outdoor space.
Seeds germinate when they are in contact with soil and moisture. Some don’t even need soil (you can try cress seeds on damp kitchen towel for example). Many need higher temperatures so generally a windowsill is a good place to start.
If you don’t have potting compost you can use soil to grow container plants. Add sand or grit/small stones for drainage if you have it.
You can experiment with various containers for planting, once they have holes for drainage.
Quick growing seeds – some seeds to experiment with which show a quick result: salads/ mixed leaves (sow thinly with a very small covering of compost), radish (these look lovely and are a good one for children as they take only a few weeks), peas shoots (sow peas about 2cm deep), you can let them grow further or eat as pea shoots). Herbs are perfect for container growing too!
If you are ready to experiment with a veg bed in the garden, this is a great time to do it and will be a lovely project to do together at this time, pick a sunny area and get digging!
Seeds which are better outdoors: beetroot, carrot, onion (you will need to use onion sets which look like little onions).
Garden centres are closed at the moment, although some local centres will deliver or prepare orders for collection, many supermarkets sell seeds and grow bags or compost too (peat free is the more environmentally friendly compost).
You can buy seeds online from Irish suppliers, some are still open during the Covid restrictions – eg. Mr Middleton, Irish Seed Savers, GIY.ie and Brown envelope seeds are also good places to buy seeds.
But Don’t fear you already have seeds in your house!
Are they any potatoes sprouting in the back of your veg press? If not keep a potato for longer than usual and it will sprout.
Children can take charge of this one and will enjoy the process:
-Take an old canvas type shopping bag and fill 2/3 with soil. Cut some small holes near the base for drainage.
-Put one or two seed potatoes into the soil and cover with a few cms of soil. Keep damp and in a few weeks you will see shoots emerge. You can then add more soil to fill the bag. Keep this watered for the summer or stand in shade / a shallow tray of water if you are away for a few days.
-This can work with basically any container. Some people just buy a bag of compost or a grow-bag, turn longways and cut off the top of the bag, put the seed potatoes (maybe 2 per bag) a few cms into the compost, cut small holes near the base for drainage.
-Your potatoes will be ready to harvest in autumn (after the plants have flowered & leaves start to die back)
Other food you can grow from your kitchen:
Peppers and tomatoes – collect the seed when you cut up your peppers, chillis, tomatoes, rinse these (tomato seeds need to be rubbed too) allow to dry, plant in a pot of compost or soil/sand mix on your windowsill. Cover the pot with cling film to help germination.
Celery – save the bottom of your celery bunch, place in water for a week approx. and when you see signs of growth move to a pot of soil/ compost or plant in the garden.
You and your children can experiment with this, recognise seeds in food and try to grow them. Older children might enjoy doing some research on how to grow plants (https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice is a good place to start), younger children will probably like getting mucky!
Something which is good fun is growing edible flowers – nasturtiums and marigolds can be added to salads and are easy to grow.. this might even encourage fussy eaters to try something different! See RHS Edible Flowers Resource Sheet: https://schoolgardening.rhs.org.uk/Resources/Info-Sheet/Edible-flowers
I don’t have containers!
Yes you do. Have fun together recycling old buckets/ bins/ paint pots/ plastic food trays/ even shopping bags can be used for growing potatoes! Just insure whatever you use has some holes for drainage in the bottom (you can add these!)
I don’t like mess!
Children love to play outdoors; messy play is important for young children. These are changed times, and sensory play will help your child to deal with emotional difficulties or anxiety at this time. See our previous blog on Sensory Play: https://www.kccc.ie/Blog/ID/1144/Sensory-Play-and-Emotional-Regulation