Plants for Kids
Gardening with Kids
We lived in a flat when both of our kids were born, but we quickly discovered that life would be a lot easier with a garden. Along with that discovery came the realisation that our kids could actually be productive and have fun - not just mud pies all round ;)
There were several things which we found out very quickly.
Firstly - kids need their own projects, sharing with each other is great, but they seem to take more responsibility when the adults were not on the team. They quickly found their own roles when working together and came to us for help and with questions. When we tried to do it 'as a family' there was more agro and boredom set in MUCH quicker.
Secondly - they needed their own space, their own seeds and their own tools. When they were using our tools they would often be left in the garden or not put away properly, but once we invested in some kit for them, it was all different. Each day they were put back in their place and they were respected.
Now that I know, and have proof, that they can be organised and tidy - I am wondering how to apply this to the rest of their lives. Primarily I am wondering if they could ever be as inspired to keep their clothes clean and their toys in order as they are to keep they garden in order?
The Greenhouse for the Kids
Since they wanted to 'do it on their own' they needed a place to work. We tried allocating part of the garden, but for some reason it didn't really work out well. It was my husbands idea to get them a greenhouse - and it was inspired.
We choose a simple one with a couple of shelves in it, it was not expensive, but it has already produced enough produce to pay for itself. If has also created hours of fun for the kids. Our youngest calls it the 'big house' because when the box arrived he was expecting a little kids playhouse type thing, so he was super excited when he discovered that it was much bigger and had shelves.
The boys actually put this together themselves. My husband did go round with a hammer and check all the joints were properly in before the covering was put on. First, the eldest, who is 8 got the instructions and worked out which pieces were which (I think he learnt this from starwars lego), then he instructed his brother where to place them on the ground so they looked like the instructions. Between them, they put the pieces together. The eldest had a mallot, and the youngest, aged 5 had a hammer from his toy kit - but this still worked a treat.
One of the great things about building their own greenhouse was that it was the beginning of their collaboration on the project and the roles started to be defined and they settled into a grove of work which has continued. They are lovely kids, but they are far from perfect, they can argue and fight like any other kids, but they never have over this. I think that if we had put together the greenhouse, then they would have had a lot more bickering, but their joint ownership has created something rather special.
This is the perfect size to get started with, however over time you will need more space if your kids get as excited as mine did. Although bigger options are available I would be tempted to get several of these, and have different ones for different types of produce.
My kids love going into the different houses to check the different plants.
Moving with your Garden
.... and the kids eating it before you arrive!
We have moved!!!!
Before moving we tried to save as many of the plants as possible for our new home. The lettuces were put into water bottles which were cut in half length-ways, the beans were transplanted into window boxes, the radishes were eaten, and the tomatoes were put in any spare pots we could find.
Most made the journey pretty well. However, during the last run, I had to put one of the window boxes length-ways between the two front seats. The kids were very well behaved during the journey, especially considering that there were boxes and bags surrounding them. On arriving at the new house, I noticed that there didn't seem to be many beans left on the plants, and the boys just burst into laughter - they had basically been eating them all the way between the houses! The thing I realised at that moment was that kids who grow food REALLY do have a completely different relationship with it. They love eating beans, peas and tomatoes straight from the plants. If all children could grow something, the governments would save lots of money from 'information updates' during children's TV which try to convince kids to eat vegetables! There is truly no better was to get kids eating greens than to get them growing them.
Home Grown Lettuce
.... grown in plastic bottles!
Since we have known for a while that we were going to move the second crop of lettuces were planted in old water bottles, I am sure that you have seen the pictures all over the internet. I cut the top section of the bottles out and then make holes using a cooking skewer in the bottom and planted three lettuce seeds in each bottle.
At first I was not sure that this was going to work, they seemed to take a long time to get going, but once started all worries were banished - they grew amazingly.
It is lovely to be able to pick your salad out of the window box and have it on your plate just minutes later!
Now I just wish that I had planted more .... the crop is delicious, but rather small for this family.
My youngest had previously been given a gardening kit, this was fine, but actually not really necessary. We thought long and hard about what we were going to buy them for their green house. Our initial idea had been to get the oldest the same things so that there would be no issues, but we decided against this as we wanted them to work together.
Instead we opted for a new watering can, we just got one for them to share and a trowel each.
I also found a wicker basket to keep all their kit in. This was essential as it not only helped to keep their greenhouse tidy, but it also meant that everything was kept together and therefore everything was shared.
We didn't worry about the size too much, neither of them can carry it when its full, so they just fill it up as much as they can carry and then the youngest does the lower shelves and the older does the highest - it is a simple system which works perfectly.
We got them simple plain ones, and both the same. I think a trowel is pretty much a trowel ....
These are essential - be sure to get ones which have lids. Kids love to see things grow quickly, and this will help them germinate FAST. Also don't get them too large or they will get too heavy for younger kids - supplying a childs greenhouse is about getting things big enough, but not too heavy ;)
The Most Important Tool in Your Gardening Kit
.... The Kids ;)
The trowels and watering cans are essential, but it is the little hands who will hold and use them which are your most valuable tool. Not only will they use the tools, but they will love using their hands as well, afterall when you are little the perfect way to make a hole for a new seed is in fact with your finger!
Little fingers have another great use ....
We have loads of different types of beans in one of our greenhouses - I am not yet sure how we will get through all the produce (I am hoping that the neighbours are bean eaters as well). The thing about beans are that they have a lot of leaves and they take over everything. Last week some of the beautiful leaves had holes in them. The boys were really upset that they thought when the beans came out that they would all be eaten by snails. But we discovered that little hands are very good and finding little snails. They collected them all in a bucket. I had suggested squashing them near the hedgerow so the birds could eat them - but they didn't fall for that. Instead we had to head over the road with our beach bucket and let them free. There used to be an old factory on the site, but it was knocked down years ago and now is just a wild bit of land which I think the council own.
We now have a new ritual, after super and before bath and bed, of looking for snails in the green house and taking them to their new home over the road.
What to grow ...
This is the final thing you need to decided, and one of the harder ones. There are two main things to consider - the final product and the speed of germination.
Kids love to see things grow, so it is really important to make sure that some of your choices will be visible quickly. I suggest beans and peas for these. They are hardy, grow well in seed trays and they will keep the kids entertained while they wait for the tomatoes, courgettes and peppers to start sprouting.
I think there is a lot to be said for growing a good range, so I added pumpkins and melons to the kids seeds - the leaves on these are different, so they have an added interest.
Peas are great as the kids can see the tendrils reaching out and looking for something to latch onto. We repotted these into window sill boxes and then put a trelis on the inside of the green house for them to grow up - a great success
Everyone needs to grow tomatoes, and there is no better way to get your kids eating them than actually growing them!
Slugs - Not even the kids will collect the slugs
My kids have a nightly ritual of collecting any snails who have snuck into the greenhouse - but when it comes to slugs, even they draw the line.
I use beer traps in the garden, I just dig old cans into the ground with a small amount of beer in the bottom, then put an old plastic plate over it, leaving just enough room for the slugs to get in. This method works really we because the slugs just pile up (I occasionally up it up with beer) and then when it is about two thirds full of slugs I dig it out and put another one in. It is pretty gross, but I never have to clean it out. It will forever amaze me that more slugs will head into a tin even with their brethren dead inside - but that is a slugs problem. I can't however use this method in my greenhouse, because I can't dig into the ground. So I have finally given in and bought a slug trap.
This is the one we got, since the slugs in the greenhouse are baby ones, this works perfectly, and it is easy to clean and not too gross. I am not sure that I would recommend it for the main garden, but for catching those sneaky little baby slugs which hide so well - this is perfect.
Teaching kids about their world ...
We are living in very uncertain times. With global warming and a terrifying economic crisis ahead of us - isn't now a good time to make sure that the next generation is as equipped as possible to cope?
Do you think that kids will grow up to be more understanding of their world if they understand nature?
As you have probably realised, my kids and dirt mix well. I am sure that their teachers think that they never wash - it is just hard to keep their fingernails clean when they spend so much time in the garden. One thing which has always fascinated them are ants. We have a line of time across the back patio, or more accurately 'over' the back patio. They start in the flower bed somewhere, go up the wall behind our vine, along the washing line, down the other side to an old bath which is now used for growing carrots, down the outside of the bath across the corner of the patio and are then lost in the grass. So ants really are a part of our daily lives, and they are respected - a house guest once wanted to pour boiling water on the patio to get rid of the ants and kids very carefully explained that they were an essential part of the eco system of the garden and that she would be a mass murderer if she continued - luckily she took the lecture quite well.
The problem I have is that I have just been reading the amazing reviews about the AntWorks ant farm - and I am so tempted to buy it. However, I have no idea how I can possibly explain to my kids that I am proposing to keep ants in captivity until they die, just for my own entertainment ...
Check it out! The reviews are amazing! I have pretty much accepted that I will not be allowed one of these - but I don't think the fascination will stop. If any of you get one - please message me and let me know if they are as good as they look.
This is it - check it out. I do not understand why this has appealed to me so much , I think it may be an example of how effective a good product review is.
Growing Peas Update
Those little seedlings above are not healthy plants which are producing pea pods - the kids are soooo excited!
Other places to visit
I like to share my finds and how I have incorporated these into my everyday living. The world is full of things to discover - but sometimes there is not enough time to do all the discovering ourselves, hence I have put a couple of links below in the hope that my discoveries can get you on your way quicker.
Good luck and keep smiling
Gardening with Kids
It is pouring down with rain today, and we had planned to do some gardening :(
So instead we are doing some gardening research, the kids have been using my computer to find out about slugs and snails and flies on youtube. (They did attempt to look at a few kids cartoons, but we had an agreement that it would only be gardening videos in the morning, and if they were good they could have a bit of 'youtube play time' later today.
One of the videos which they found is below. I hadn't thought that it was that relevant, but they loved it, everytime the guy said what kids should be learning about, mine were shouting at the computer saying 'I know that', it really gave them a boost that they had learnt so much and that they were such experts. So if you want to inspire you kids, give this video a go.