Gardening with children: sowing seeds with Mary Hamblyn
Seed sowing is a fantastic activity for little-ones. It€™s especially fun if grown-ups Don't interfere too much. My three year old has been sowing cosmos and peas this week. Cosmos produce tonnes of cheerful daisy-like flowers in the summertime and can last until the nights start getting frosty. They are perfect for picking and giving to Granny or arranging in a jam-jar. There are lots of different varieties and colours, and they can cope in a pot if you haven€™t got room to turn them out into the garden. The seeds are long and thin €“ like a grain of wild rice. A three year old can manage them happily, and a dexterous two year old would probably do just fine as well. Pea seeds are large enough for even the youngest of toddlers to handle. They germinate quickly, and what better introduction to grow-your-own than sweet, freshly-picked peas eaten straight from the pod. We chose Tom Thumb, a dwarf variety that can be grown in pots and doesn't need to be staked €“ ideal for small gardens and small gardeners alike. Sowing station With a bit of planning you can set up a sowing station that gives kids the freedom to do everything themselves without causing too much mayhem. This is a great confidence builder and makes the experience more enjoyable for everyone. Our sowing station had:
- a small bucket of seed compost (just because we had some kicking around €“ general multi-purpose would do)
- mini tools (trowel and fork)
- a stool for a work bench
- Twigz mini greenhouse (a windowsill-size propagator with biodegradable pots)
- A watering can (only part full; what pre-schooler can resist emptying a whole can?)
- Most seeds need warmth, moisture and light to germinate. If it is cool outside, pop them on a sunny windowsill.
- A propagator or mini greenhouse is good for speeding things up or protecting young seedlings from heavy rain €“ but Don't leave the lid on too much once they€™re growing or they€™ll get lanky and weak.
- There are lots of good seeds for little-ones to grow. Here are just a few: sweetcorn, beans, pumpkins, sweet peas, nasturtiums, clarkia and, of course, sun flowers!
- Taking a hands-off approach is great a way to instil a love gardening €“ but if your children are very young make sure you€™re nearby to stop them putting anything in their mouths (or up their noses€¦)