I believe every child should have a go at growing their own food. It teaches a child where food comes from, the hard work (and quite often the easy work) required and the patience needed to grow the food. A child of any age can enjoy growing something, and you don’t need to have a huge back garden. Many fruits and vegetables can be grown in pots on small patios, by the front door and even on our kitchen windowsills.
Growing food from seeds is the cheapest way of growing your own, but ready established seedlings can easily be purchased from the garden centre if you prefer. Once you see how easy it is to grow a simple tomato plant, next year you can grow 2 or 3, and your child will love to watch their food grow, and they will love tasting their own hard work. If you have a child who wont touch cucumber, let them have a go at raising their own. You never know, they just might eat it, and enjoy it! Everything tastes better when you know where its come from, and how it’s grown.
I’ve put together a list of the 10 easiest fruit and veg for children to grow, and you wont need a lot of space (or time) and soon you will be enjoying your very own fresh healthy produce!
A classic kitchen favourite. Cress grows super quickly and you don’t even need to touch any mud. Sow at any time of the year, just simply line an old margarine tub with some tissue paper or a square of cotton, water well so its wet and then sprinkle over a good layer of cress seeds. Within a week you will be enjoying your cress with your sandwiches. Cress seeds can be found in lots of places, such as the supermarket, and are pennies to buy.
All the popular varieties of beans are simple enough to grow. The do best in the garden, either in the soil or in pots/containers. We love growing broad beans, runner beans and French beans. They all grow really well, with minimal effort and it’s pretty hard to fail completely. You will need some support for them to grow up, but garden canes are easy to come buy, or even using string will work well. If your little gardener likes flowers, grow Runner Beans, which were actually originally grown for their beautiful flowers.. it was only after a while, we decided to start eating the yummy beans that grew from it!
Much like beans, peas are also super simple to grow. Set the pea seeds (they are just dried peas) in small pots and water well. They will take a week or 2 to start showing, but once they are a few inches tall you can transplant them into bigger pots, supported by canes or string. Peas do well in sunny spots, so whether you have planted them in the garden, on or a patio or balcony, make sure they have a good amount of sunshine. You can pick the peas when they are small, sweet and tender or wait until they are big and swollen.
My favourite to grow with the kids. Tomatoes don’t just make a yummy addition to salads and sandwiches, but you can also have a go at making your very own, super fresh and healthy tomato sauce that tastes so much better than shop bought stuff. Tomatoes have been grown since around AD 400, and originally grew in Peru, where the vines grew as a wild plant. They are very, very good for you and are packed with lots of the good Vitamins A and C. Tomatoes can easily be started in pots on a sunny windowsill and then when all chance of frosts are gone, put them out in the garden in a really sunny spot. Keep them watered well and give a little tomato feed occasionally if you wish to. Tomatoes never have to be boring. You and the kids can grow little cherry tomatoes that are great in salads or you could have a go at the giant Beefsteak variety that are superb sliced and fried. There are over 3000 different varieties of tomato out there (in all different colours too), so get exploring. Suttons Seeds have a fantastic range of tomato seeds for little gardeners to grow and enjoy, and they also have a great advice section to answer any of your gardening questions.
Super easy to grow and very versatile, the long and orange root vegetable is loved by many. I have had great success in the past by not following the packet instructions and literally just scattering the seeds onto recently dug ground. They really do grow that easily! The carrots take just 12-16 weeks to mature and pick early for sweet baby carrots, or leave a little longer for long roots. They can be grown in pots, buckets and even carrier bags! Mix a little sand in with your soil and you will have even more success and try to remove big stones, unless you want funky shaped veg!
Mixed salad leaves can be thrown into any pot in any garden, on any windowsill or on any balcony. Quick to grow you can ‘cut and come again’ as and when you need the leaves by simply snipping the leaves off. Packs of mixed salad seeds are easily for kids to grow and produce a great range of different coloured leaves, with a great range of flavours.
These are great fun to grow. It blows kids minds that 1 potato put into the ground suddenly turns into to 10 (or way more). Growing potatoes takes a little more work and space than previously mentioned food-projects above, but the outcome is so rewarding. Buy special seed potatoes from the garden centre (shop bought ones don’t ever do as well, believe me I tried) and wait for them to chit, when the little roots start growing out. Stick them in the garden or even a deep bucket and as they grow add more soil around them. You’ll get lovely flowers from the plants and when they start to die-down, then is the time to lift them from the ground. You’ll enjoy your very own home-grown chips… jacket pots… bubble and squeak… mash…
In my honest opinion, It’s never to early to start planning for Halloween! Pumpkins can start being planted now, in March / April ready for October. It’s at fun to watch the seeds (saved from last years pumpkins!) grow into long trailing plants, that produce that wonderful bright orange vegetable. If you can grow them over a trellis archway so you save some space, and it feels magical walking underneath the plant. Pumpkins aren’t just great for making jack-o-lanterns, but the yummy flesh makes great soup and pies too! Just look at that beautiful pumpkin flower, from one of my harvests a few years ago. So colourful, and behind the flower grows the tiny pumpkin.
I could eat rhubarb all day every day. It’s just divine. If you know someone with a rhubarb plant, split it when the plant is out of action over late winter, by digging it up and slicing the root in half. Once the long stalks have established cut the big leaves off, peel it and throw it into a yummy fruit crumble or pie. The great thing about rhubarb is that you literally have to do nothing with it. Each year it will come back up again giving you tasty red fruit all summer long. Rhubarb also freezes really well, so you can enjoy this tasty fruit all year round. Even though we typically call rhubarb a fruit (and I just did several times, truly it is actually a vegetable! Most garden centres sell baby rhubarb roots for planting, and you can set them off from seed, but the process is a long one!
Onions are eaten in our house several times a week. They are thrown into stews and hotpots, added to salads and often added into vegan bolognaises to bulk the meal up a bit. Onions can be grown from seed, but the simplest way to grow them is from ‘sets’ which really are just baby onions. I recently purchased a bag of 50 onion sets from Poundland, and so far each onion is growing superbly. Stick the bulb into well rakes soil with 3 to 4 inches between each bulb and leave the tip sticking out. Soon you will notice the growth of green shoots emerging from the tops of the bulbs. When the leaves begin to yellow, they are ready to harvest. Use a fork to loosen them from the soil and lay the onions out in the sun to dry. Once all dry, brush away the dirt and they are ready to eat!
I hope this have given you a little inspiration to get the kids and yourself out in the garden growing fresh, healthy and tasty vegetables. People are often scared to try and grow their own, because they think the process is a hard one. But it really isn’t. All of the above can be grown in tubs on whatever space you have, so every child can enjoy the process of growing their own.
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