The great weather over the Easter holidays inspired us to get out into the garden. I only planned to tidy things up and replant our herb basket but the kids had different ideas! They found hanging baskets in the shed, seeds that were way out of date and hatched a plan to ‘grow their own’ in some containers where I have, in previous years, grown some vegetables. I was blown away by their enthusiasm, how could I say no? Between you and I, I’m secretly hoping that growing them will inspire the kids to eat more!
After a bit of planning, a trip to the garden centre and a change of clothes, we were ready to begin!
Step 1- Choosing What to Grow and Which Variety
- If you ever have the chance to grow your own, try to choose a variety that’s not readily available in supermarkets, it makes the whole thing so much more fun and worthwhile, not to mention a great incentive for the kids to try something new!
- Beans are easy to grow with minimal fuss. We opted for French beans this year but runner beans, borlotti beans and soya beans are just as easy.
- We chose some high yielding French beans and a purple variety, both of which I have grown before. The high yielding variety ensures there will be something to pick for a few weeks and the purple one is something different and fun.
- Tumbling tomatoes are so easy to grow! They don’t need to be supported or pruned, simply plant, water and feed!
- Most tumbling tomatoes can be grown outdoors in a sunny position and many are high yielding, sweet and delicious! We chose two different varieties, one red and one tiger stripe.
- Leafy greens and salad leaves are probably the easiest and fastest to grow, with some producing a crop in around two weeks! There are literally hundreds to choose from so be adventurous and try a selection.
- If you want to make your garden look pretty as well as taste good, choose Highlights chard for a beautiful edible display of yellow, red and green. We coupled that with some bok choy, a veg I love and am trying to convince the children to try (so far unsuccessfully!)
Step 2- It’s all in the Preparation
- If your soil is well prepared and you choose the right spot for your plants they really can’t help but grow!
- When planting in containers, choose compost containing a water retainer or add some water retaining granules. This just makes your life easier later on, enabling plants to go for longer between watering.
- Dig in a measure of blood fish and bone plant food for added nutrients (not essential if using fresh compost) encouraging strong root growth.
- Water all the plants that you are about to transplant well, allowing the water to completely saturate the pot.
Step 3 – Planting and Sowing
- Fill all the containers that you are planning to use, with compost- the kids loved doing this so I grabbed a coffee and supervised from a chair!
- Erect a bamboo cane structure for the beans to climb up, placing them around 20cm apart and securing with a piece of twine at the top. If you have the space (which we don’t!) you could place them in a teepee design so that when the beans grow up, it becomes a ‘living cubby house’.
- At the foot of each cane we planted a bean either side (an inch away from the cane), I would normally only plant one bean per cane but these beans were a year out of date so we were hedging our bets!
- The girls pushed the beans into the compost to the depth of their index finger and filled in the holes.
- When planting tomato plants, remember to plant them a little deeper than they are in the pot, covering the lowest pair of leaves. This helps them to establish and increase their root structure.
- Chard and bok choy are super easy to grow from seed. Make a 1cm deep tough in the compost, down the centre of the planter and sprinkle the seeds into it, pinching the compost back over the seeds. Again, due to the age of the seeds, we planted more than recommended but needn’t have worried because this is how it looked two weeks later even though the temperature changed dramatically from 26C, back down to 12C!
- These seedlings will need to be spaced out soon to give them enough room to grow!
- Strawberries are the kid’s favourite fruit so I agreed to buy one plant! They aren’t the most prolific of plants, you really need a number of them for a decent crop and even then, you will need to fight off the snails to claim your treat! Our strawberry plant was therefore given prime location in a half basket on the shed, in the hope that the snails will not notice it’s presence!
Step 4 – Watering and Waiting!
- Once everything is planted and seeds are sown, you need to get watering!
- Remember to be gentle, you don’t want to wash away the seeds you’ve just sown! Use a gentle spray setting on the hose, that doesn’t disturb the soil too much, or sprinkler attachment on the watering can.
- At this time of year, the rain should take care of most of your watering but do make sure that things don’t dry out.
The kids have loved going out to check on things and watering hasn’t been a problem so far! I’m hoping that their current enthusiasm for watering and caring for the plants will continue into the summer months when it’s really needed! As you’ve seen, the chard and bok choy have already sprung into life, taking only a couple of weeks to sprout. It won’t be long before we will need to space out the seedlings to give them room to grow. The beans will take a little longer, depending on the weather and the tomatoes are growing and beginning to flower.
We are all looking forwards to being able to pick our first crop!
I hope I’ve inspired you to give it a go, it really is easy to do and great fun for the kids!!
Have you attempted to grow some vegetables with your kids? What fruit or vegetables have you found grow best in containers?