V is for Vegetables

I chose to write about vegetables, as it’s often seen as a ‘boring’ topic and can often be seen as too difficult, or too time consuming to even attempt to grow any vegetables. Well right from the start, let’s set a few things straight; growing vegetables is easy, quick and you don’t even need much space. Even a plant pot will do, for certain vegetables!

Why not just buy your veg?

Although we have our own allotment patch across the road, we still buy some vegetables locally. But growing your own means:

  • You have control over what goes in the soil (and what doesn’t, so you know it’s organic!)
  • Your child is far more likely to want to eat something that they have grown and nurtured; they will be so proud of even the tiniest of potatoes!
  • It’s cheaper to grow your own!
  • You get to spend time outdoors with your child, on a shared activity.
  • It promotes scientific questioning and understanding.
  • Your child gets to be closer to nature.
  • It’s natures own messy sensory play! It doesn’t get more sensory than getting your hands stuck in the soil, pulling out the most delicious smelling carrot!
  • It’s a REAL experience, that is meaningful to the child.
  • You can’t get food any fresher than when you grow your own. The fresher the vegetables, the higher the nutrition content.
  • For many vegetables, you can freeze them, so you can use them throughout the year.

Getting Started

It’s so easy to get started! Firstly, look at the space you have to grow vegetables with your little ones. Only grow what you would normally buy, to begin with.

If you’re nervous about growing plants from seed, then head over to your local garden centre and see what’s growing. Get yourself some vegetable plants that have just started growing.

Use good quality compost, where possible. The nutrition from your soil will ultimately end up in the vegetables you grow and that you and your child eat. The better the soil, the better the veg!

Keep the soil moist

Have fun! Don’t worry if something doesn’t quite work out the way you wanted it to. Your little one will have just enjoyed being outside with you!

Keeping Costs Down, but Style Up!

Be creative! Use hula-hoops as growing frames (ask your local toddler group or school to let you know when any break!) I saw this idea at the Great Yorkshire show and just HAD to use it on our allotment!

If you have plenty of space, you could use pallets to create a ‘bug hotel’ to encourage beneficial insects to help out at your allotment. Yes, really! This is one of the principals of organic vegetable growing. For smaller spaces, even something as simple as some cut lengths of bamboo tied together, can become a habitat for bees and ladybirds!

Another principle is ‘companion planting.’ Planting specific varieties that will draw insects towards them (and away from your prized vegetables!) Combining this with a habitat for mini-beasts such as ladybirds to feast on those pesky little aphids, will help to keep nature in balance!

You could use old pipes and guttering to assemble an individual raised area. Strawberries especially benefit from this, as the fruit can’t touch the ground, so doesn’t rot as easily! The downside: More watering, to keep the soil moist.

Tips for Growing Vegetables with Little Ones

  • Give your child a space of their own to grow a few fruit and vegetables. Try to combine some root vegetables, with others such as courgettes.
  • Read books about growing plants and about vegetables, with your child. See further down this post, for a book list!
  • Keep wet wipes handy! Don’t worry about the soil – just be sure that your child doesn’t touch their face, so watch them carefully, and just let them enjoy!
  • Protect plants and soil from harmful animal faeces by putting fruit netting over them. It will also prevent birds and other wildlife nibbling at your crops!
  • Plant a little more than you want, to begin with – to allow for a few crops being prematurely pulled up by your child!
  • Let them pick their crops, rinse them and eat them within minutes… carrots taste incredible when they are freshly picked and it’s such a great way of teaching children where their food comes from!
  • If you have an allotment space, try creating an outdoor play space for them to keep them occupied whilst you do the not so fun parts, like weeding (unless they’re a particularly good helper!)

Creating a Runner-Bean Tipi

This is so easy to do, but makes a fantastic play space!

All you need is some garden canes, some twine and runner bean plants!

Start by positioning the garden canes an equal distance apart, leaving space for the ‘entrance.’ Be sure to push them into the ground enough so that they are secure if knocked.

Then tie the top canes together with plenty of garden twine.

Before you plant the beans, it’s a good idea to weave twine lengths around the tipi (again, don’t forget to leave a space for the entrance!) This helps to support the plants as they grow. Do it all of the way up now, to save having to do it later (and risking trampling on your plants!)

Finally, plant your runner bean plants into the ground, so that the plant will grow onto the tipi frame.

Simply keep the ground moist (and as weed free as you can manage,) and enjoy!

Want to see a photo of the finished thing? I have a confession to make… shortly after planting up the young runner bean plants, our chickens managed to escape and decided to eat the majority of the plants! Oops! But Darth still loves playing inside the tipi frame and it should stay standing, ready for next year instead.

Reduce, Re-Use, Recycle

Use these principles when growing vegetables, no matter the scale of your space! These are such important environmentally friendly principles to teach our children and there is no better way for them to learn, than experience it for themselves. As they grow, they will be able to see inspiration in all sorts of every-day objects and apply it for how it could be used to help grow vegetables, whilst avoiding waste and unnecessary cost.

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