It's Sunday 5th April. I have my three children this weekend. At the moment and as I start to write this they're still in bed. But the forecast is for a warm Spring day and I know that if I don't encourage them it'll be a day on devices or in front of the telly...……..
So this is what we have planned - a day of sowing some seeds, checking in on our broad beans looking at how they've been doing and sorting out some sunflowers.
A neighbour set up a WhatsApp group and some of us have decided to have a sunflower competition using some Little Dorrit seeds, some seeds from a flower head we brought back from the Auvergne last year and, when they arrive, some good old traditional giants.
All of this is the sort of stuff that I try and do with my children as often as we can. We have an allotment and we try to spend time there as often as we can. Admittedly they prefer picking raspberries rather than preparing the beds but they do what they can, when they feel motivated to do it. And at the moment and with so many children being off school - and after a number of you got in touch - I thought an article on what you might be able to do with your children might not go amiss.
You don't need to have an allotment though. You can grow vegetables and plants in anything. Have a look at this for ideas:
Cress is a firm favourite and something that is easy to grow. My eldest daughter had some homework set back in February to explore whether cress would grow in warm or cooler temperatures. Her part of the project was to grow the cress in a warmer environment. A school friend had to grow hers in the fridge...…….
In the first picture you can see her sowing her seed. She used two growing mediums - seed compost and damp kitchen roll. Both trays were put in a heated propagator - but a sunny windowsill would have worked just as well.
The second picture shows the cress 7 days later - a crop that was then harvested, mixed in with some hard boiled eggs and eaten in a sandwich.
As you can see the seeds that were sown on kitchen roll didn't do as well as those sown in compost. That was probably due to the fact that the depth of the compost meant that it was able to retain moisture better and for longer than the kitchen roll (and ok, I forgot to keep spraying it to keep it moist)!
Cress. Something that is quick and easy to grow and something that you can then easily enjoy.
Whilst we're on vegetables that begin with C let's take a quick look at another of our favourites - Carrots. We'll do a more detailed article on carrots another day but this is what we got up to today.
Putting our money where our mouth is and to prove you don't need an allotment or permanent vegetable patch we knocked up some raised beds from some old decking we had left lying around. Our front garden gets the sun in the morning so we put them there.
The first picture shows the beds. Carrots need a decent depth of reasonably good soil to grow and here we have about 6 inches. We've covered the beds with some upcycled metalwork we were offered by another neighbour to keep the cats away!
And here are the girls sowing some Purple Haze seeds. We love Purple Haze - partly because they're sweet and tasty and nothing like carrots you get in the supermarket and partly due to their colour.
Finally here are some that we sowed again in containers but this time at the allotment. We started these off a week ago and you can see that so far they've not yet germinated.
Who doesn't like a bean?! Ok so we're not talking Heinz Beanz (or any other sort of baked bean) but beans can be relatively easy and fun to grow. Have a read of this article to see how we started our broad beans off the other day:
Now quite a few of you have been in touch wanting to see how Edie's experiment was doing. We'll she's delighted to report that one of the three beans she planted is now almost ready for Jack. Here it is. Look closely and you can see the root structure growing out of the base of the seed, and the growth that - if grown in the ground - would now be above the surface.
What will happen next is that flowers will start to develop, which in turn will become the pods in which the beans that we will eat will grow. Easy so far.........
The thing is that the plants we popped into the ground at the allotment have been slightly battered by the winds so we're going to stake them to help them grow skywards. That'll be back breaking job that I'm guessing Edie won't want to do...........
We thought that the wind might affect the plants so Edie sowed some more seeds in fibre pots. We had planned to put them in our propagator but other seeds took priority so we left them outside. The lack of warmth meant that they were slow to germinate so the other evening we brought them all indoors.
Here you can see that whilst the root system has started to grow it's not developed at the same rate as the one in the bottle. The part that would normally be above the surface has hardly developed at all - that green shoot that you can see has only appeared over the past 24 hours!
Never mind. We'll be keeping those indoors now and with some more constant warmth they'll soon catch up and enable us to plant a second double row up at the allotment.
Like we did a separate article on Broad Beans and like we'll do a separate article on Carrots, we'll do a separate one on Sunflowers.
Growing them though is as simple as it is for Broad Beans. All you need are some seeds, compost, something to grow them - the ground or a suitably sized container - some warmth and some water.
We're taking part in a sunflower growing competition on our road. We're delivering seeds later today and we're hoping to see lots of Little Dorrits, Giants and an unknown variety that we brought back from the Auvergne last year growing skywards as the sunnier and warmer weather starts to become the norm.
The first photo shows the girls getting the seeds out of the flowerhead we brought back from France. It's amazing to see how it's reduced in size in only a matter of 7 months. We've looked after it and hope that we'll see some of the seeds germinate and reproduce a little bit of central France here in Somerset.
The second one shows the girls sowing seeds into pots. It's still quite cold overnight and as we found with the Broad Beans that we left outside the lack of warmth does affect the rate at which the seeds will germinate (and that might mean that the seeds will rot before they get a chance to get going) so we're going to leave these on a warm windowsill to help them on their way.
Then once the seeds have started to become established - and before they get too "leggy" we'll start to introduce them to the outside (during the day) so that they harden off. Once the weather has warmed up and the risk of frosts has passed we'll then plant them up in their final space. We're going to plant ours up in yet another good neighbour donated item - this pot - that we'll then leave in our front garden for people to look at whenever they walk by...…….
So that's about it. Some easy seeds that you can grow with your children over the Easter and whilst they can't get to school. Something that we can all do and get some real enjoyment from - doing an activity together, getting outdoors, learning about how plants grow and hopefully enjoying something in a few months time that will enable us to look back on a period of time that wasn't easy.
Get some seeds - whatever you can get or think you'd enjoy growing.
Get something to grow them in - compost, kitchen roll, your garden.
Get a suitable container if you need one - a bottle, old trough, large pot, anything.
Sow your seeds, water them and do your best to keep them warm.
Watch them grow - they normally germinate within a week or two.
Keep watching them and looking after them - if you don't then they'll die!
Water them - not to little, not too much. Talk to them if you want to!
Enjoy whatever they produce - vegetables or flowers.
Most importantly, enjoy yourselves and have fun!
Alistair (and for this weekend Toby, Tilly & Edie)