Gardening with kids: ten easy plants to try - Part 1
For as long as I can remember I’ve been titillated by a garden: whether it was finding a hidden nook and calling it My “Secret Garden” (almost certainly inspired by this book), having a “tea party” with leaves as pretend plates and twigs as pretend cutlery, or helping my mum go on a treasure hunt for potatoes, I’ve always found the pull of a good garden too much to resist.
The year we bought a house I dug and dug at the earth, planting sweet corn, courgettes, tomatoes, spinach. Some things worked. Some things didn’t. I nearly cried when the birds pecked at my beans and the slugs decimated the broccoli. But it was exciting. And it me feel so good.
Over the years I’ve learnt what “quick wins” are, the ones that need a bit more TLC, and the ones that will always be thrilling for kids. I’ve done the hard work so you don’t have to! In this blog, I share the first five of the top ten - this is such a massive blog that I’m going to split the content into two, so look out for the next one appearing this time next week! If you want it straight into your Inbox please do subscribe to my newsletter at the bottom of this blog: you can also follow my Pinterest Gardening Board for more advice and inspiration!
People think these are exotic - but they’re so easy to grow! They’re so satisfying, as they’re such big seeds. Pop a couple in a pot of compost - one either side of the pot - you’re meant to just put one in per pot but I always do two because a) I’m lazy and b) they don’t all succeed all of the time. We normally plant about four pots worth. Then water daily. Once they look big enough to go in the earth, “pot them on” (tip out the pot gently, dig a hole, water the hole, put the plant in the hole, keep an eye on it!) They will just grow and grow and grow - I am so fortunate enough to be able have the space to grow onto the earth, but next year I’m planning to do them vertically - I’ve got a whole Pinterest inspiration board for that here, with similar images to this. Top Tip: make sure you pick them regularly, else they will turn into massive marrows! You never need as many as you think, but you’ll be really popular with your friends!
Now, in total honesty, these are a bit of a time investment initially, but my word they are so brilliantly rewarding. So, here’s what you do. Buy summer-fruiting raspberries and plant them any time between March and November (as long as there’s not a frost). They will come as canes looking like this, and you can train them up against some wooden canes, a fence, whatever you’ve got. If you get them in November there’s then a wait until next summer, but once they’re in just let them grow and enjoy the spoils! At the end of summer, cut down all the ones that had a lot of fruit, and tie up the strongest looking fresh canes onto the structure you’ve put in place. We’ve grown potted raspberries and ones that grow on canes, but find the latter so easy and they don’t take up too much room as they’re a vertical plant. I’d try this variety. Top Tip: putting in an hour’s effort either end of the growing season to make sure they’re properly tied up makes a massive difference.
I don’t know about you, but up to a certain point I found it easy to get anything green down my kids. Suddenly 18 months old came, and it appeared that eating green food was effectively like eating sand - initially intriguing but ultimately disgusting. When we plant it ourselves however from seed in little pots and then carefully transplant the baby plants into the veg patch (tip it out of the pots and put in holes in the earth) it’s like organising the best ever flags for sand castles. We dig holes, pop them in and watch them grow. It will grow generously and you can even “over-winter” (cover them with fleece and let them hibernate and then kick off again when the frosts are over) - a seriously brilliant vegetable to frow.
Top Tip: net these while they are growing and tender, before the snails and slugs get them! Don’t start them in the ground - plant your seeds in pots first.
These beautiful flowers are so fabulous: plant them between March and May - these ones can go as little plug plants (tiny plants you buy straight from your local Nursery) into the earth. It’s worth covering them with a net initially so they don’t get eaten by the birds or the creepy-crawlies, but once they’re established they’re SO RESILIENT. You can eat them in salads, take pictures of them on Instagram or just use them as natural deterrents to pests, as I have here, planting them between broccoli and potato plants. The kids can’t believe that they’re allowed to nibble these flowers, and it makes mine more prone to trying strong flavours.
Top Tip: these spread around the garden - I adore them but if they’re taking over dig them up and move them, or plant them in big pots.
An absolute favourite of mine, these are just the absolute easiest thing in the world to grow. You buy the tubers or ‘seed potatoes’, which are small tubers rather than actual seeds. You have to “chit” them, which means shutting them away in a dark, cool space, until they start sprouting out. Then plant them in trenches about 30cm apart, or in big potato bags (I love these ones from Wilko). Eventually you will see some green shoots emerge - this is where the fun with your kids comes in - they have to “earth them up!” This essentially means covering the green shoots with soil so that they are completely submerged. For new potatoes they’re ready to crop (dig up on a TREASURE HUNT!) about ten weeks after they’ve been planted - you just dig and dig and find so many beauties! For main crop (bigger) potatoes wait until the green shoots (because eventually they do emerge despite the earthing-up and that’s just dandy) starts to look a bit tired and wilted!
So that’s the first five. Look out for strawberries, lobelia, sunflowers, broccoli and carrots in Part 2 - subscribe to my Newsletter to be the first to get it, and if you’ve enjoyed this please do share in the comments below! For day-to-day updates on my garden or anything else check out my Instagram @power_ofmum