With spring time in the northern hemisphere once more, it is time to turn our thoughts to the outdoors, the garden and encouraging our children to help us grow our own food in the months ahead.
The younger we start to give our children the opportunity to discover the delights of sowing, harvesting and eating their own produce, the better - and the more likely they are to enjoy fruit and veggies in their daily diet!
How to create a child friendly vegetable plot
- Make gardening an enjoyable activity for all the family.
- Don't be too fussy about keeping the children off the plants. Once they appreciate how good home-grown fruit and veggies taste, they will be as protective of the plants as you are. If the vegetable patch is divided into small squares or rectangles with pathways in between, or if you have raised beds, this can make it easier for children to avoid stepping on the plants themselves.
- Provide tools that are the right size for your children, safe to use and easy to see and find in bright colors.
- Parents can ramp up the fun levels by providing novelty seed packets that include seed strips and seed mats. One tip is for children to pick up and place fine seed by using the dampened end of a matchstick.
- Let children eat their pickings straight from a pesticide-free garden. What could be fresher and tastier?
- Sometimes children will choose seeds that are less than easy to germinate and grow - but the end result might well make all the effort worth while.
- Gardening provides the ideal opportunity for recycling too. All the non-edible kitchen waste can be used in the compost bin while flower pots and plastic labels can be re-used over and over again. They can even grow seeds in used egg shells.
- Another plus is teaching about encouraging wildlife - and those important pollinators - to help their crops grow. Children are often fascinated about wildlife and especially bees. Pollination is needed for plants to reproduce, and so many plants depend on bees or other insects as pollinators. When a bee collects nectar and pollen from the flower of a plant, some pollen from the stamens – the male reproductive organ of the flower – sticks to the hairs of her body and of course is spread to other flowers as she goes about her business.
- When our own grandchildren come to visit, a walk up to the allotment is always a must and they give Grandpa a helping hand with watering, digging and of course picking their favorite - peas! Here in the UK, peas are the most popular vegetable of all especially with children.
The ideal fruit and veggies for young gardeners to plant and grow
- Pumpkins, gourds and squash (like the lovely little patty pans).
- Spring onions, lettuce and carrots
- Sugar snap peas and runner beans
- Edible flowers such as heartsease, nasturtiums and marigolds