This week I’m delighted to share some tips and tricks for sowing seeds from Denise in Little Green Growers. I know from personal experience that showing children how to grow and cook their own food has incredible benefits. I hope you enjoy this lovely piece from Denise…..
March is a great time of year to get children interested in sowing seeds and growing food! You can add to the fun with arts and craft ideas, competitions and teaching them how to care for their baby plants.
· Help the children to pick a patch outside for their ‘children’s garden’. Ideally this should be a sunny location close to the house where you can keep an eye on them and their plants! They can grow seeds in containers or direct in the soil, whatever suits your situation.
· If growing in the soil, having the children add a layer of brown cardboard to the growing area a month or two before sowing will help to suppress weeds so the ground can be easily prepared. To get the most out of it, this cardboard can be decorated with their names first during a rainy afternoon indoors!
· Have the children choose washed and dried empty packaging (e.g. milk cartons, mushroom punnets, yoghurt cartons) for their seed starting. Another afternoon can be taken up just with picking and decorating these, and adding their own name to the container! Make sure to add drainage holes in the bottom of whatever container is chosen.
· Combine this with decorating wooden plant labels and adding the plant name. These can be obtained online or in good garden supply or craft stores. If your budget is tight, strips of old milk cartons will do, just make sure there are no sharp edges.
· Help the little ones to fill the container with compost and add seeds on top. Seeds such as peas, broccoli, kale, radish and rocket grow quickly into seedlings to keep little people engaged.
· If the container is big enough they could lay the seeds in the shape of their initial e.g. F for Freddy!
· Add a light sprinkle of compost and water well. Place in a warm sunny windowsill. Once the seedlings sprout, help the children water as needed. The soil should be kept moist but not overly wet.
· If you see the seedlings getting ‘leggy’ (tall and stringy) they don’t have enough light, try to move them to a brighter location. If you do have to start again, have the children cut the seedlings and eat as shoots (check first that the variety is suitable to eat as shoots – peas, broccoli, kale, radish and salad are all fine to do so, but seeds such as tomatoes should never be eaten as shoots).
· After the risk of frost passes (usually April for most parts of Ireland), help the children to plant their seedlings out.
· Now they need protection and care! Help the children water regularly and do a daily inspection of their baby plants with them. A DIY watering can (and another afternoon of ‘Make & Do’!) can be taken up with decorating an empty plastic bottle which can be filled with water. An adult should add holes to the bottle cap so the water can be sprinkled out.
· Another fun activity is to have the children crush dried eggshells and sprinkle this ‘magic dust’ around their baby plants to keep slugs at bay.
· Add to the fun by encouraging them to give their plants personal names, sing to their plants and draw them!
· Children who won’t eat veg sometimes surprise us by loving to eat the veg they’ve grown themselves. Peas are great for this as they have the joy of picking the pod to discover the peas inside. Radishes grow quickly and can be grown even in small containers. Kale is a very hardy plant which can grow surprisingly tall. Once the plant has been established, leaves can be harvested as they appear. When any of these plants bloom the flowers are edible too which adds to the fun!
I think these are the wonderful (and practical) seed sowing tips and I do hope you’re inspired to get growing with the children this year. On another note, congratulations to mum Clodagh Conlon who was the winner of our recent Cooleeney cheese giveaway. I’ll be back soon, and in the meantime, I hope you and your children continue to enjoy reading Freddy’s storybooks and trying out the recipes.