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27/01/2010 20:16:00

Gardening With Children - Choosing Your Crops


This blog piece is written by Stephen Shirley of Victoriana Nursery Gardens. Stephen and his wife Serena actively encourage their own children in the garden as well as running the local Primary School Gardening Club and assisting with other school gardening projects.



Just recently I had the privilege of listening to a group of school children give their thoughts on what was needed for carrot seed to grow into carrots; whilst every answer given was correct in its own way, by far the best was from one young lad who said, “sun, sun and love”.

Gardening with children is rewarding on so many levels. Start with easy growing projects to ignite their interest, here are some suggestions for good starter crops.

Five Easy Grow Vegetables For Kids


Grows quick enough to satisfy the most impatient of youngsters! Draw a face on a used boiled egg shell filled with damp cotton wool and sow - in no time at all a cress head. On the same principal, an old egg box chopped into sections and glued together can become a cress caterpillar.



Every child knows the story of Jack and the Bean Stalk – say no more! Climbing French beans can grow impressively fast up canes, an obelisk or similar and can be picked and eaten on the plot. Runner beans can also be used but make sure they're picked young – otherwise tough and stringy beans may put a child off forever.


The seed is small enough to start teaching more precise sowing techniques but still large enough for small hands to manage. Growing fairly quickly they will satisfy any impatience and later are a great vegetable for teaching thinning. I have yet to find a child who doesn't like beetroot chips (oven roasted). Most children also find the ‘after effects' of eating beetroot of great interest too (and something to warn Mums and Dads of if you have served it to their siblings)!



Once they get cropping, the sheer number of fruits produced and speed at which they grow is always a fascination to children – the Triffid of the vegetable world. Consider a round or yellow fruiting variety (or both) for added interest. Can be one of the harder vegetables to get children to try – but is easy to hide in soups, rice and pasta dishes.



Something they can grow for their school lunch box. Easier than conventional sweetcorn as they can be started later (avoiding low temperature concerns) and do not need to be grown in blocks – as they do not need to be pollinated. A huge plant from a tiny seed always impresses, and few children can resist Babycorn!



Crops To Pick & Eat On The Plot


The sweetness and flavour of peas picked, shucked and eaten raw on the veg garden cannot be beaten, and one kids (or adults) never seem to tire of. It's a good idea to pick with your child the first few times to make sure they only pick the swollen ripe pods – and just as anywhere else on the garden, make sure any canes or supports are topped with suitable eye protection.


Few raspberries on our own plot actually make it to the dining table as they are our daughters' favourite. Once again make sure they know the difference between ripe and not - so as to avoid wastage. ‘All Gold' seems to be very popular with children – perhaps because of the colour, perhaps because of there crumbly texture.


Apart from the obvious ‘baked', lots of kids just wont eat beans; by encouraging picking and eating on the plot that may just change. French beans and runner beans are the obvious but broad beans can also be shucked and eaten raw. Move on to using them in raw in salads before serving them up cooked.


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