You will need:
One… Fill your chosen planter with soil and mix in nutrient-rich compost, which can easily be delivered straight to your home by garden centres around the country
Two… Create neat holes in the ground in horizontal rows with your finger or the end of a trowel, before carefully planting your seeds, plug plants or potato seeds – remember to leave enough room for them to grow
Three… Water lightly for the first few days using a watering can with a rose nozzle and continue during the growth stage, watering more generously during hot spells
Go for variety. Colourful carrots and peas will brighten up any teatime, while sweet strawberries and raspberries will provide a healthy sweet snack for kids of all ages. Homegrown pumpkins are not only fun to grow, but they will make a great pumpkin growing competition and are of course essential come Halloween!
Keep it fun Rainbow chard, colourful carrots and stripey beetroot mixes will offer lots of variety and keep your little ones interested all the way from planting those seeds to harvesting later in the season.
Make it quick! To keep your little ones keen, go for seeds that will germinate quickly, or already established plug plants that can be harvested soon afterwards. Colourful radishes and beetroots start growing within a few days of planting and can be taken from ground to plate within weeks. Broad beans, peas and runner beans will take a little longer to grow, especially if you decide to overwinter the seeds, but they will provide an endless bounty of super-healthy vegetables from late spring and to mid-summer. You can also plant seeds and plug plants at different stages to ensure a continuous crop.
Carrots. The humble carrot is super easy to grow and versatile at the table. The tiny carrot seed will blossom into frothy, soft leaves by late spring and can be plucked from the ground by summer. Available in a rainbow of colours, carrots don’t need to be bland and are rich in beta carotene, which our bodies convert into vitamin A, an important nutrient for children’s growth, development and their crucial immune systems.
Tomatoes. Keep lunchtime salads interesting by growing these sun loving fruits in your garden. Available in a multitude of sizes, colours and varieties, they are packed full of vitamins and the antioxidant lycopene, which has been linked to reduced risk of heart disease and cancer. Choose a sunny spot and grow kid-friendly smaller varieties such as Tiny Tims in hanging baskets or window boxes, or plant beefier tomatoes in grow bags with supporting bamboo canes to take their weight.
Radish. Hot and peppery radish may not be the first choice for younger children, but Cherry Belle produces a mild flavour and these rosy red, round radishes are favoured by kids and are ideal for hummus dips. High in potassium, they are very easy to grow and will be loved by younger Beatrix Potter fans!
Beetroot. To get a head start, sow large, easy to handle knobbly beetroot seeds indoors from late-February and plant out under the protective cover of a cloche, greenhouse or tunnel in March. Within two to three months these hardy veggies will be ready to pick, wash and cook or pickle. Kids will love a multicoloured array of stripey yellow, red and orange beetroots which will cheer up any salad plate or roasted side dish. Packed with a host of vitamins, minerals and fibre, they are low fat and full of essential energy-boosting magnesium.
Salad. Romaine, Little Gem and Buttercrunch lettuces are the staples of any good salad and careful cultivation will mean your lettuce plants keep growing throughout the warmer season. Encourage your kids to carefully trim the outer leaves to encourage new growth in the middle – just be be mindful of those little fingers! As well as disease-fighting vitamins, lettuce is rich in a host of minerals including iron, calcium and potassium.
Broad beans. These easy to handle, larger seeds offer easy planting for little fingers and will germinate within a few weeks. Create simple wigwams with bamboo canes and twine to support these rapid climbers that will flower in spring and produce endless beans by summer. Easy to grow, maintain and harvest, they are packed with fibre, a host of Jack and the Beanstalk-style energy and immune boosting B vitamin. Try peas or runner beans as an alternative.
Pumpkins. We couldn’t leave out the largest of the vegetable world! These giants may take longer to grow than most common garden vegetables, usually up to four months in the UK, but good things really do come to those that wait. Roasted whole or in chunks, blended into a sweet, nutritious and delicious soup, or saved for Halloween carving, pumpkins and their fellow squashes are so versatile. Grow from seeds indoors and plant out as the seasons warm, leaving enough room for them to swell. Pumpkins are full of essential vitamin A for healthy bone development and all-important eye health protection.
Potatoes. Potatoes are the nation’s favourite and most versatile veggie. Large early variety seed potatoes can be sunk into soil from early spring and will provide a mass of buried treasure for kids of all ages. Vitamin rich, the modest potato is packed with fibre which will aid digestion and lower cholesterol. Keep dinner time interesting by choosing a few varieties from the hundreds available in all shapes and sizes.
Strawberries. For sweet tooths you can’t go wrong with flavoursome British strawberries and they need much less room to grow than you would think. The Strawberry Sweetheart variety produces masses of small, intensely sweet fruits in July and August and will thrive in a window box or hanging basket. Look out for the weird and wonderful Pineberry variety featuring bright white flesh and red seeds – kids will love them! Full of immune enhancing vitamin C, they have a low glycemic index, reducing spikes in blood sugar levels and offering a safe sweet treat for children and adults with diabetes.
Cress. Ultimately the easiest salad to grow by far, cress and other tiny micro herbs offer an alternative to children who don’t like to get their hands dirty! Scatter the miniscule seeds onto damp kitchen tissue and place on a window sill in a tupperware container. The tiny shoots should grow within 24 hours and you will be able to start trimming the cress when they reach 1-2 inches. Cress is the perfect accompaniment to child-friendly egg sandwiches and packs a mighty vitamin punch. Just one ounce of cress provides nearly 40% of your daily vitamin A intake, which is oem of the best nutrients for eye health at any age.
Read the instructions. Follow the instructions carefully on each packet or plug plant label to ensure you are planting at the right time and in the right conditions. A good rule of thumb is to wait for the last frost of the season and the ground to warm up before plantings seeds and plug plants outside. Many seeds can be given a head start by planting inside and left on a windowsill in a warm, sunny position, and hardier vegetables such as broad beans can be overwintered.
Think about space. Plant your crops neatly according to their instructions and also think about their vertical and horizontal growth to prevent over-crowding and to fully utilise your space. Plant seeds too close together and your plants will compete for space, water and sunlight once they germinate, and be mindful of height. Tall climbers such as peas and beans can easily block out the sunlight, stunting the growth of shorter crops, so always plant at the back of a raised bed or grow bag.
Start small. Only plant as much as your family will be able to eat and maintain. Any leftover produce, leaves and trimmings can be composted or fed to the family rabbit or guinea pigs!
Maintenance. Don’t forget that any fresh produce will need regular watering and some maintenance. Simply thinning out and taming forests of carrot seedlings will help bulk out those left in the ground.
Happy Harvesting. The moment you have been waiting for! Test one or two peas, tomatoes or beans before carefully plucking from their vines. It’s a good idea to use hands to dig for potatoes and other root vegetables to prevent damage. Always thoroughly wash before eating.
Marvellous Marigolds. Cheery orange marigolds are the allotment owners friend. Known as a companion plant, they can be safely grown next to your fresh vegetables and fruits to repel creepy crawlies, hungry caterpillars and bothersome butterflies.
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