If you want to grow vegetables with your children then think about those that are easy to sow and grow and will be quick growing. For the best vegetables to grow are those that:-
- Are easy to sow, especially those with large seeds like courgettes.
- Germinate quickly, to keep those short attention spans occupied.
- You can sow in situ, so you do not have the trouble of transplanting.
- Produce a crop quickly.
- Require minimum maintenance other than watering and feeding.
- Will continue cropping.
Grow food that you know your children already like or food you have a good chance of persuading them to munch. Vegetables that you can eat straight from the plant like tomatoes are always a hit with kids. Harvesting food is one of the best things about growing your own.
Growing Vegetables with Children
Test the theory that one way for children to eat vegetables is to get them to help grow their own. If you plant vegetables they already like then you are on to a winner. The staples of the vegetable plot in our children’s garden are courgettes. carrots and tomatoes. You can also see Growing Cut and Come Again with Children, including salad leaves and pea shoots
- Plant Out: early spring onwards.
- Harvest: within 10 weeks from sowing.
- Where to plant: in the ground, large container (at least 30cm wide) or grow bag outdoors all in a sunny location.
- What to sow: seeds or plants.
- Latest sowing time: June.
Courgettes are ideal for children to grow as it is easy to get a huge crop for very little effort. You will only need one plant per person. Keep any remaining seeds for next year. The large seeds are easy to sow, will germinate in about a week and the seedlings can cope with prodding from little fingers.
Plant two seeds in a pot containing multi-purpose compost. Each seed should be pushed in vertically. Water well and keep on window sill. Discard the weakest. After 4 weeks transplant them to a permanent site. In the ground plant at least a metre away. Keep watering, daily if in pot or grow bag.
The bright yellow flowers and fruits of the courgettes are ornamental so if you are short of space consider planting them in a flower bed or the front garden.
Harvest when small, no more than 10cm long and, harvest at least once a week to keep the plant producing new flowers. You will then be able to pick courgettes up until September.
Use Courgettes: Not all children like courgettes so try grating them into a tomato sauce or cottage pie. At the end of a season let some grow really large and then carve a face in them as you would a pumpkin.
Carrots are ideal for children to grow in containers as they do not like to be moved. So grow from seed and use a deep container (at least 20cm deep). Check out our growing crops in pots information. The seeds are very tiny so young children will need help with sowing.
- Plant Out: April to July. (Can sow indoors from Mid-February)
- Harvest: within 12 weeks from June.
- Where to plant: Pot or the ground.
- What to sow: seeds.
- Latest planting time: August for harvesting baby carrots in September/October.
If you want to sow early you can sow indoors in a seed tray from Mid February ( Try variety ‘Early Nantes’) and then transplant outdoors in April. If sown outdoors once they have grown about 3cm thin them out by just snipping off the unwanted seedling at soil level. If you do not do this you carrots will not develop properly. Eating the thinnings can help maintain your child’s interest in the project. You will need to water regularly to deter the roots from splitting. Sow a few pots of carrots in succession so you can have a continuous supply. If your kids can’t wait 12 weeks until they develop fully, just eat the baby carrots.
Choose carrots suited for growing in pots, those with short stumpy roots are best. ‘Redcar’, ‘Chanteray Red Cored’ and ‘Mini Finger’ all work well in pots.
Use Carrots: British Carrots has loads of carrot recipes and also games for kids.
Not all carrots are orange. You can easier buy these in your local shops. Why not grow some rainbow coloured carrots or even some purple ones. It must be a sure way of gaining your children’s interest. Not only are they lovely colours the insides of the carrots are usually a different shade to the skins.
Tomatoes are one of the best vegetables to grow with children and are perfectly suited for containers.
- Plant Out: Late May after the last frost.
- Harvest within: 12 weeks.
- Where to plant: Growbag, pot or the ground all in a sunny spot.
- What to sow: Plants.
Three plants will produce a lot of tomatoes in a good year, so don’t plant too many and three are just right for a grow bag. It is therefore easiest to buy plants rather than plant from seed. You could also try plants of different varieties.There are two types of tomato plants those with a cordon which will need the side shoots pinching out and bush type that don’t require additional maintenance. One plant in a large pot unless you have tomatoes suited for small containers.
Grow your own Tomato Sauce
If your children like pasta you could grow your own pasta sauce. A pot with chives, oregano, basil and parsley with the addition of a small cherry tomato such as ‘Balconi Red’ will provide you with all the essential ingredients for a tomato sauce and a really attractive arrangement. You will also get to harvest the herbs for use in cooking other meals.
More Reasons why Children should Grow Vegetables
For more information on growing other food with children take a look at the following pages.
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