Tuesday 10 April 2012

Five Plants to Grow with Kids

From our experience last summer, here are five of the most kid-friendly plants to share with your child (all can be grown in a vegetable patch or in containers):

1) Peas: Easy for little fingers to grasp, fun to soak and sprout then simple to plop in the earth, cover, water and wait. A week later, tiny little shoots appear; a few more weeks, fairy flowers are followed by pods which, if your child is anything like mine, will be plucked and munched immediately. And, if you manage to save a few, you even have seeds to store and plant for next year.

2) Chives: Another simple choice for preschoolers. Chives grow easily from seed, can withstand any amount of tugging and nibbling (a full-blown haircut is even beneficial-great scissor practice) and they will, apparently, grow forever (without taking over your yard). They also look really pretty, if left to flower-and the flowers are edible too.

3) Tomatoes: According to Jem, sun-warmed cherry tomatoes straight from the vine taste even better than candy (though of course, I have no idea how he knows what candy tastes like). You can grow them from seed or, as we did last year, take the short-cut and buy a few seedlings from your local grocery (for less than you'd pay for a punnet of produce). Just make sure that your plant variety won't outgrow its container or allotted spot in the yard, and that you have adequate staking available (home-made bamboo teepees are a cheap, fun solution). Then water every other day and pray for sun. Apparently, green fly can be lured away by growing Calendula or Marigolds in the same pot or spot. Or, if desperate, give the infested plant a good blast with the hose (one of Jem's very favourite jobs). And, in the fall, you can take cuttings for next year's crop.

4) Calendula: Not only bright, beautiful and useful (see tomatoes and green fly, above), Calendula tastes good too- no accidental poisoning worries here. It doesn't seem to mind how it's sown, it grows quickly, in full-sun or partial shade, and needs very little water (although it will withstand an occasional over-zealous flood); the perfect preschooler's flower. And, like our peas, although we bought seeds last year, this season we're sowing from seed collected from our final bloom of fall flowers.

5) Strawberries: Like our tomatoes, we planted young strawberry plants last year (purchased from our local garden centre for a handful of coins) and we weren't disappointed with the harvest. This year, we have a ready-made strawberry patch, thanks to the new generation of runners (with a fascinating discussion about reproduction thrown in for free).

Hope you have as much fun as we did :)

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