Is that a peak of blue sky I see? I swear the moment I saw it my mood lifted and all the promise of spring and summer came flooding to me.
Even though summer here is generally 3 stupidly hot days and then a lot of humidity I always look forward to that great big ball of vitamin D greeting us!
I mentioned in a previous blog on a similar subject, whether it be growing food or flowers, spending time in the garden can be very relaxing and rewarding. I thought I’d focus this time specifically on growing edible plants. All three are really easy to grow and a great way to get the kids involved in the production of the food they eat.
What will you need:
You don’t need loads of fancy equipment to grow these thing which makes them easy and accessible for everyone.
1 – Containers – any container will do, if you have plant pots and trays already that’s great but you can also use plastic tubs and containers. (Make sure you add some holes to the bottom for drainage).
It’s important the containers are clean and haven’t been used for anything non edible. You also need to make sure you are using food safe plastics so that your food doesn’t get contaminated with nasty chemicals.
2- Compost/ soil.
3- The seeds.( you don't have to choose the ones I have suggested, try growing any fruits and vegetables you want).
4- Water and something to pour it with. A watering can is the easiest way to ensure your plants get a nice even watering but you could also use any container or bottle with some holes in it.
5- Trowel and Fork. Or you can just use you hands if you'd like to. We have a lovely childrens garden set made from recycled materials which includes both as well as a watering can.
6- Sun Protection. This is the most important thing, so make sure you are keeping your children covered up. Here is a handy guide for staying safe in the sun.
1 -Salad Leaves.
When I first decided to try growing my own salad leaves I couldn't believe I was paying so much for something so easy to grow!
When you grow your own salad, you can pick off what you need, as and when you need it. Meaning there is often considerably less waste then shop bought.
The Great thing about Salad leaves is they can take as little as a month in some cases to go from seed to plant, meaning you get nearly instant results. This is particularly rewarding for children to see the progress within a relatively short period of time. It also means you have plenty of time to try again if your first attempt doesn't go to plan.
You can pick up a pack of salad or lettuce seeds for as little as £1 in many garden centres, supermarkets and lots of independent retailers. Depending on the type of leaves you choose your pack will usually contain 100s of seeds so, depending on how much your family eats, you wont need very many packets.
Most salad and lettuce leaves are annual (meaning it grows from seed for one year only). Many varieties can be sown between March and September for an almost year round growing season, so you won’t need much of a top up in the shops.
These plants need full sun for the best results, they can be grown anywhere but I prefer to grow them in a few smaller containers or pots by themselves, especially when growing leaves rather than a whole lettuce as It keeps them away from other leafy plants so the children do not get confused.
Id always advise to check your seed packet for specific growing instructions as they can differ slightly, but you can click the link for the RHS guide for growing salad leaves for some additional information.
Our garden has many slimy friends that love to snack on these so I prefer to keep mine covered, especially at night, with another clear container or covering.
Its a great idea to encourage children to engage with and learn about the wildlife in your garden that supports the eco system. Try using resources like books and puzzles to help with this. Magnifying glasses are great to help encourage their curiosity in nature.
Basil is an annual plant. It does well in British soil and does especially well grown in greenhouses and in pots on a sunny windowsill. Basil is typically an easy plant to grow and you can either plant from seed or pick up a plant from a garden centre.
Most Basil can be sown between late February and mid summer, but as before, check your seed packet for specific growing instructions. You can click this link for the RHS guide for some additional information.
Most basil is quick to grow like lettuce and should germinate in 1-2 weeks.
I like to grow basil in a small pot in our mini green house as sadly our kitchen window doesn't get much sun, but I do think the ideal place would be a space close to where you will use it. Basil doesn't necessarily have to be grown in doors but its important to keep it in a sunny spot which is very sheltered from the wind.
Basil is a great addition to lots of dishes, make it into pesto for a pasta or fish dish. Add as a garnish to a Mediterranean tray bake or even just add it to a simple salad using the lettuce you have grown?
3 - Carrots.
Carrots are straightforward to grow from seed, taking up little space, and can even be grown in containers.
Carrots do take longer to grow then the lettuce and basil but are worth the wait. On average carrots take around 3-4 months to grow so patience is required. But if you sow small batches regularly from early spring onwards, you can get harvests almost all year round. Find out more here.
Fresh home grown carrots are delicious and have such a different flavour to the supermarket version. They come in all colours including red, orange, purple and yellow. And there are several different size varieties from really tiny baby carrots, to round carrots and large carrots like the ones we are used to seeing in the shops.
You can boil, roast or steam carrots and you can eat the raw.
If you fancy trying some other vegtables why not give the courgette, raddish or tomato a go. Or If you want to have a go at growing a Perennial Food, try Strawberries or Rhubarb. These are both very easy to grow and care for.
Always supervise your children in the garden and take time to educate them not to put things into their mouths unless a grow up says its ok.
I hope you enjoy growing these foods and others.