One of my biggest parenting flaws is my reluctance to be in the same house as my children. I know, it’s a pretty big flaw. But when we’re indoors, everything is just so difficult. They get bored, watch too much television, start bothering me and we drive each other mad. But all that changes as soon as we step out into the garden.
I have big plans for my garden over the next 12 months. We’ll be fencing off an area that we’re currently unable to use. It will become the children’s play area and we’ll have a little vegetable patch too. So I’ve asked for some advice from Kevin at An English Homestead about getting the children into gardening.
1. Grow something quick
Kev advises growing something that will soon be ready to eat. This helps children to remain interested in the process. Once they see that they can grow something productive, it is easier to persuade them to grow something else.
2. Use the space available
If your children are interested in gardening now, don’t wait until you have the perfect plot. My girls wanted to grow some food earlier this year, so we planted seeds on the windowsill. We didn’t have space to plant them out, so I passed them on to family who live nearby. The girls still get to eat the things they grew and the recipients benefit from it too. Another idea would be to grow herbs or cress that can be grown entirely on the windowsill, or attach some pots to outer walls for more space.
3. Invest in a polytunnel for protection
There is nothing worse than seeing all your hard work go to waste. For children, planting vegetables in the ground, only to see them eaten by pests can be demoralising. To avoid this, protect your plants with a polytunnel or net.
This mini polytunnel from polytunnels specialists First Tunnels is ideal for protecting brassicas. At 4 ft wide, it is tall enough to protect the brassicas from cabbage white butterflies without interfering with their growth height. If you are looking for protection from frost, you may prefer to go for a clear polythene cover instead of the net. You will need reasonable DIY skills to construct the tunnel as wood needs to be cut to size and drilled. However once constructed, it is portable. We lifted it easily between two people – so it can be used over and over again in different parts of the garden.
4. Grow what they enjoy eating
Growing food with children can be a great way to encourage them to try different vegetables. But to start with, grow something you know they enjoy. Fresh, raw carrots are always tasty and my girls will never turn down broccoli. They were delighted this year when they were able to eat the broccoli they’d planted on the windowsill, which had taken well in my mum’s garden.
5. Allow them to help with the preparation and cooking
It’s fascinating for children to follow the journey of their vegetables all the way from seed to plate. Let them pick their crop from the garden and help you with the preparation. Under supervision, they can get involved in the cooking too. They experience a real sense of achievement from growing and cooking their own food.