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Growing veg with children… or how to take on Disney | Nick Coffer | My Daddy Cooks

Growing veg with children… or how to take on Disney

Dawn Isaac photo1And now for a first here! A guest post! Dawn Isaac produces a fabulous site called Little Green Fingers. Think of it as a gardening version of “My Daddy Cooks”. I asked her to write a post about getting kids involved in growing their own veg and here is the result. Be sure to visit her site by clicking here and follow her on twitter @lilgreenfingers.

If you have an idea for a relevant guest post, feel free to drop me a line.
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Growing their own veg has to be one of the most exciting things a child can do.  Well, OK, that might be overstating it.  I mean it’s not exactly a trip to Euro Disney, but it’s got to be on a par with making chocolate fudge brownies and it’s definitely a step above jumping in puddles.

Veg harvest and shed 003Still, if you want to move yourself up the excitement league table, here are a few things to try out with the kids.

Going bright and bold – if the eye-searing nature of most children’s toys are anything to go by, the under 10s do love colour. Try adding as much as possible to your kitchen garden – or even your borders – and it will be a magnet for children. Swiss chard ‘Bright Lights’ offers rainbow coloured stems and you can also get cosmic carrots which come in yellow, orange and purple shades.

Scoffing flowers – there are a number of edible flowers you can add to the veg patch.  Some, like nasturtiums, will also help with pest control – acting as a magnet to the blackfly which will then leave your other crops alone – but the children will be most excited about the idea of munching on the petals. You can also try planting borage, a herb whose pretty blue flowers can be added to drinks, salads or even used as cake decorations.

Boots 005Planting a climbing bean wigwam – simply push five long bamboo canes into the ground to form the wigwam structure and tie these together at the top.  You can use twine to make some horizontal climbing lines at about 30 cm intervals, leaving an opening between two of the bamboo posts.  Then plant one or two runner beans at the base of each cane – ‘Celebration’ is a good variety to choose – and, over the summer, the frame will be covered in leaves, flowers and pods, making a great garden den.

Miniature gardens – the top chefs rave about micro-leaves, so why not get the children to grow some themselves?  Simply sow seeds such as rocket, radish, fennel and coriander quite thickly into compost filled old yoghurt pots which can sit on a sunny windowsill.  The children can then snip the seedlings for harvesting when they are about 10 days old and you have tiny leaves bursting with flavour for use in salads, sandwiches and for garnishing.

Weird and wonderful – one of the main benefits of growing-your-own, is the ability to plant something you can’t buy in the supermarkets.  Let the children help you select seed packets and you’ll find they love to see unusual varieties.  Why not look at Parmex carrots which are round not long and pointed or perhaps purple podded peas.

Colander hanging basketGoing potty – don’t worry if you haven’t got a garden.  Almost all veg will grow just as well, and sometimes better, in pots.  And you don’t even have to stick to the usual plastic of terracotta versions.  You can use almost any container for planting as long as it’s weatherproof and has drainage holes at the bottom. Carrots in an old wellie boot, strawberries in a colander or radishes in an ice cream tub – all these will be much more interesting to your junior gardeners than a boring old veg bed.

Do one to two of these and, although you might not reach Disneyland status, gardening could well start challenging ‘soft play areas’ in the kids ‘top 10 things to do’.

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