Kids love the outdoors! Well, they used to at least, before the rise of tablets, phablets, smartphones and all the other tech that steals their time away from the real world.
So, why not reignite their love of nature by getting your kids active in the garden with some super green-fingered projects.
And gardening is not just about planting things and watching them grow, it has a number of other benefits too. It’s a great form of exercise, with 30 minutes of general gardening stuff using up 202 calories for an adult, so you’ll get some benefit as well as the kids. But more importantly, outdoor play is essential for creating happy, healthy, well-adjusted members of society. According to research, spending only five minutes outside can produce improvements in self-esteem and mental well-being for adults and even more so for kids.
You’d be in good company too, as more and more young people take to their gardens – turning their outside spaces into extra rooms. A poll by carried out by Alfresia in 2014 showed that 25-35 year olds were choosing to be in their gardens over lots of other kinds of entertainment. In fact, it came above going to the cinema and visiting family.
We love this pizza garden idea. You just divide up a circle of garden into pizza slices and plant a different pizza ingredient in each. The example uses herbs such as basil, oregano and parsley, as well as vegetables like tomatoes, onions and peppers, but you can choose whatever you like to put on your pizza. So, why not have a look at getting some garlic, rosemary and thyme too?
Sunflowers are always a good choice – they’re cheap to buy and really simply to grow and you can harvest the seeds to eat once they’ve flowered.
Peas are another great kids’ crop and you can eat them at all stages of their development. Just use your common or garden whole peas – the fresh ones you buy to eat – soak them overnight and then sow them in pots indoors to begin with, otherwise they’ll probably get eaten by slugs. Once the peas start to sprout, take some and eat them in salads or pop them in stews and soups. Let others grow a little longer and you’ve got pea shoots, another tender little delicacy. The remaining peas can be planted outside and allowed to grow to fruition. By summertime, your little angels will be picking succulent green pods, filled with juicy nutritious peas – yum!
And for something a bit more spectacular, why not get the little darlings to grow their own pumpkins for Halloween? They are super easy to grow and the leaves and flowers can be eaten as well as the pumpkins themselves. But don’t forget, if you pick the flowers, there’ll be no fruit.
But growing things to eat is not the only thing you can do with your kids in the garden – they could have a go at making this flower petal perfume – lots of staff here at Ocean remember doing this.
Or you could use the time to get your kids interested in wildlife. Why not do some catch-draw-release projects, like this one, which simply means you catch the insects, draw them and release them unharmed. But be warned – do not put more than one insect in the jar at a time or you child may get a lesson in how certain insects hunt, kill and eat their garden buddies.
No outdoor garden?
If you don’t have any outdoor space, don’t worry, there are lots of things you can do indoors, on balconies and windowsills. The easiest place to start is with good old cress. All you need to do is get yourself some cotton wool, a dish and a well-lit, preferably south or east facing, windowsill. Just wet the cotton wool, add the seeds, pop on the window sill and wait. Make sure you keep the cotton wool damp, if it dries out the cress will die. There’s more on cress ideas here.
The other thing you can do is use your outside windowsills. Veg that likes shade and minimum humidity works best here. So you could try spinach, onion, bell pepper, cherry tomato, carrot, radish and lettuce. Herbs are another good windowsill favourite and some that grow really well in window boxes include oregano, parsley, basil and rosemary.
You’ll need a container that has drainage holes so it doesn’t become water logged. First, put a layer of fine gravel in the bottom, then add a compost that’s suitable for containers – it’ll say on the bag – and then plant your seeds according to the instructions on the packet. Some people prefer to use a soilless potting mix, to eliminate the fungi and bacteria that may be lurking in ‘real’ soil. But, if you’re not bothered about that, any container potting soil will do.
No humidity and no bugs
When it comes time to pollinate, you’ll have to do this yourself, as there are no bugs to do the job for you inside. If you don’t, you’ll not get any ripe juicy fruits to harvest, which kind of makes the whole process of growing veggies to eat pointless. But, it’s a simple job, with some q-tips and a steady hand – here’s a video showing you how to do it step-by-step.
If your containers are on the inside of the window, you may have to provide some humidity too. You can do this by leaving a dish with some pebbled and water near to your plants, or get a spray bottle and mist the plants on a regular basis.
If you’re growing things inside, it’s likely that they’ll be creepy-crawly friends wanting to take up residence alongside your carrots. A simple solution of dish washing soap, preferably organic and biodegradable, like this lovely Bio-D Washing-up Liquid, and water is a simple and effective solution. Remember, you’re going to be eating the produce so try to keep chemical away from them.
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By Hayley Cox