Beginners guide to gardening with kids, part two.
Here in Christchurch, New Zealand we have been blessed with a really warm Spring so far…which has got me and the kids a bit excited about planting veges out in the garden. Honestly, it’s a bit early but I’m feeling pretty confident! We started growing veges from seed way back in mid to late winter so we’ve got a few things really ready to plant out as they are outgrowing their pots!
You have a few choices when making a garden especially for kids:) Mark off a section of a main vegetable garden if you have one. Alternatively, use planter boxes like these ones my Mum has. You could even be extra awesome by letting the kids paint them. >
< Or you can just use less extravagant but equally functional pots and boxes (especially if you have a cool sister/Aunty who is woodwork handy and loves building planter boxes with the kids!). We even grow strawberries in our old green recycling container. We have citrus trees, blueberries and strawberries growing in these pots year round.
< A cheap option which we did about 5 years ago is to buy a round of fencing (about $30), tie it into a big circle, and fill it with soil and garden mix. This is my eldest’s own garden and she is fiercely protective of it! Anyone that knows me knows I am all about fostering independence and this has been an awesome resource for doing just that. Every year she plans out what she wants to grow in there, then we buy the seeds together, she plants them in pots and then plants them out when they are ready. She’s 8 now but she’s been doing this since she was 3. She proudly collects and eats all her produce so great for encouraging healthy eating too! This year she is growing zucchini, cucumber, lots of peas, corn, sunflowers, potatoes, strawberries and some lettuces.
So time for planting out:? You have two options basically. Buy plants like these goodies I was donated by the awesome team at Terra Viva (www.terraviva.co.nz or on Terra Viva Home and Garden on Facebook)^ or plant from seed..whether you have raised these in pots inside or just want to plant them straight in the garden. There are lots of seeds which can be planted straight out like peas, corn, beans, zucchini, and cucumbers but the birds have it in for me so I grow them all inside first, beans being the exception. Lettuces, carrots and radishes can go straight out and are ridiculously easy to grow! Things like capsicums, eggplants and tomatoes really do better in pots first.
For the absolute beginner gardeners all you need to do now is dig your patch of garden so it is free of weeds..mix some compost through it (bought or made, it doesn’t matter too much) and then dig a hole big enough to fit the whole plant in. This is a perfect job for a 3 year old, but I do recommend wearing sunglasses if you don’t want an eye full of dirt haha. You will thank me later for this if your 3 year old is anything like mine and performs any task with a large amount of drama! Then just water the hole, tip the plant upside down carefully into your hands (try to touch the plant as little as possible, particularly the stem..they really don’t like this!) then lay into the hole. Cover it up with soil, pack it down gently then give another wee sprinkle of water. At this time of year in Spring, I water every other day, then once a week give it a really deep watering if the weather has been pretty sunny. By this I mean leaving the sprinkler on for 20 minutes or so.
If you want to get a bit fancy or have a lot of room, there are heaps of fun things to grow with kids other than the regular veges….my kids love the blackcurrants and red currants we grow…raspberries (especially the prickle-free variety) are a big hit obviously! We also grow a lot of Globe and Jerusalem artichokes, heaps of different stone fruit trees (I may or may not be a little too excited about having apricots growing the first year ever!), and almonds.
If you find yourselves on the opposite end of the spectrum and have next to no room or inclination to make a proper garden…potatoes in a pot are a great option! Here in ChCh, Terra Viva even have a ‘Spud in a Bucket’ competition which is a bundle of fun. All you need is one pot, or just a regular bucket with a few holes in the bottom will even do! Just leave some potatoes until they have little sprouts a couple of cm long then place about 10cm garden mix in the bottom of the pot or bucket. Depending on the size of the pot, add 1-3 potatoes with the sprouts facing upwards. Cover the potatoes with more soil then water lightly. Once the plant pops up out of the soil, lay another few centimetres of garden mix on the top and keep doing this until the soil is at the top.
I find it takes about 10 weeks for the potatoes to be ready, but you do need to harvest them all once the plant starts to die. If you are a bit savvy, you can burrow underneath and just pick out a few potatoes whenever you need them, leaving the plant intact, so it keeps making potatoes. Although the kids do get very excited by tipping out the whole bucket and counting all the potatoes! Have fun, get busy, then kick back and relax with the kids eating lots of yummy things!