How can it be the start of seed planting time again? Admittedly, January is more about planning than committing seeds to soil. Unless it’s a tomato seed, then, let’s face it, that’s fair game.
I love gardening. It’s something I’m passionate about handing on to my children. When they leave home, I want them to have the skills to grow their own food. It is a life skill
Good news is, that after 17 years of gardening with my children, I think I’ve picked up a few tricks to ignite their enthusiasm and keep them coming back for more each year. Both teenagers and my tween will join in.
Here are my tips:
It doesn’t matter how old or young they are, or the season, jump on in and start gardening, with your children. There is always something you can grow or prepare. No garden, no problem. Contact your local council and apply for an allotment. Or else, use containers. It doesn’t have to be expensive either. They could be tins or pots out of your recycling bin. A packet of seeds from the supermarket. Given the right conditions, seeds will grow. Start small and build it up.
Make a list
Make a list of the vegetables, salads and fruit you like to eat and flowers to enjoy. Cross out the ones which are not practical. Each January, we sit round the table together and make our list. I also bring out a few cookery books for inspiration. This was an absolute game changer. Courgettes, once banned, are now (almost) top of the list, thanks to a favourite recipe we found.
Make your annual plan
We found that a garden journal works for us. Double page spread for each month. First page includes all the jobs for that month, including what to sow. Second page is for notes. Children love turning over the new page, each month.
This one is a winner. My children love seeing photos of themselves. Sharing photos of them gardening in the previous years, helps to inspire them. They remember the fun. They remember the rewards.
Give them their own patch
As soon as they start asking for a patch of their own, make it happen. One year, they each had a long trough that they could plant whatever they liked. It was a big success. The next year, I gave them a bigger area. There is nothing like sitting round the lunch table knowing everyone is eating the carrots you grew.
Visit other kitchen gardens
I’ll admit, this one surprised me. I thought I was dragging them around the gardens, but turns out, they were picking up ideas too. Lots of “we can do this“, as we weaved our way through the neatly laid out patches of veg. They have fallen in love with flowers and different varieties of vegetables on these visits, as well as clever ideas.
There are so many fun projects to ignite their interest in gardening. We’ve grown seeds in little bags and jars, built runner bean houses and had our own pumpkin competition. They’ve named seeds and cared for them. As they’ve grown older, they’ve searched our varieties they like and enjoyed cooking with them. So many project ideas out there to suit all ages.
Let them know that you appreciate their efforts and gardening with you. It sounds simple, but it’s as good as an invite to join you next time. There will be failures, but that’s how all gardeners learn. That’s how we all learn.
Time to talk
This isn’t so much a tip, but an observation. Just as teens are more likely to open up when you are driving them somewhere or on a walk, I find that they often choose to join me as I’m weeding the sweetcorn. I learn more about their day at school, than if I’d sat them down and fired questions relentlessly, as soon as they walk through the door. It is often one to one time, where the gardening acts as a safe spot to share a problem.
Another benefit is that they learn to love and appreciate the natural world, and also understand the worth of the food we eat. We have very little food waste or fussy eating. I put that down partly to learning how to garden.
Gifting gardening themed presents is wonderful, but it can also be daunting for a beginner. Take time to help them get started and keep them interested as it grows. I still remind my youngest, every now and again, to water his rainforest plants that we gave him in the summer for his birthday. They are surviving and he is proud of them.So there you are. Difficult to imagine gardening at the moment, as the rain is tipping down, but it will change. If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, then this is a good time to start planning and preparing. If you are in the Southern side, then start sowing your winter and spring crops. There is no time like the present. Your future self will thank you.
I cannot tell you how much I’ve enjoyed gardening with my children over the years. Sometimes, their enthusiasm has carried me along. Other times, I’ve been glad that I had a few tricks up my sleeve to encourage them. I can only hope that every child will have the joy of seeing a seed burst through the soil, as it germinates. Or eating something that they grew. It is so good for them. Whatever age they happen to be.