It is starting to feel like proper, Shirley Hughes-style spring here in London. Sunshine, clouds, rain, mud, wind. Sunny mornings and wet afternoons, new welly boots and garden dirt under our fingernails. Bulbs on the table, flowers brightening up surfaces, seedlings on the windowsill.
After months of neglect we’ve started to venture out into the garden again, tidying up in anticipation of the warmer weather to come. I’ve given Frida some new strawberry plants, dug a small bed for some raspberry canes (though the soil is so wet I’m not holding out much hope for them), bought a little pond to dig in to attract wildlife, and we’ve made our first trip to the garden centre. I’ve even planted a tiny magnolia tree in front of our house, something I’ve been lusting after each Spring, and I’m starting to make a tentative plan for what we’re going to plant and grow where.
We’ve also bought some packets of flower and vegetable seeds. There is something so joyous and optimistic about a packet of seeds. The anticipation of those first shoots, the patience of waiting for them to grow, the daily watering and weeding and tending in the hope of something beautiful at the end.
Sowing seeds is also a brilliant practical life activity to do with children, and easy regardless of whether you have a huge garden or a tiny window box or sunny windowsill.
Use egg cartons, toilet rolls (push them so they are flat, then again the other way so you have a rectangular prism shape, then cut and fold the bottom to make a cardboard pot), yoghurt pots, jars (great for watching roots grow), you name it – no need to go and buy new plastic pots, all you need is some growing compost or potting soil. When your seedlings are bigger, you can plant them into bigger yoghurt pots or ceramic pots on balconies and windowsills – no yard needed, just a sunny spot – or into planters or directly into the dirt if you have a bigger outside space.
Great seeds for children include peas, runner beans, sweetcorn, tomatoes, radishes (these are great as they don’t take long to grow), cress, sunflowers, and marigolds. Salads are also great as many varieties come up quickly and your child can cut the leaves themselves, going from plant to plate in seconds!
Growing plants together is also a good opportunity for other related practical life work such as watering, cleaning dirt, cutting, weeding, washing ripe vegetables, and cooking them.
(And if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, why not plant some bulbs, and collect seeds – beans, corn, peas – to dry out for the next planting season?)
Beautiful books on growing plants
We’ve pulled out some of our favourite books on growing, and added a couple of new ones to the pile too. Some of our favourites include:
- A Year In Our New Garden. Probably my favourite children’s book about gardening, and a lovely seasonal story whether you plan to grow things or not. Bonus points for having a character who lives in an apartment and who uses a wheelchair.
- How Does My Garden Grow? A brilliant, beautiful and really informative book all about growing vegetables. A firm favourite and great for teaching children about where food comes from.
- The Story of the Root Children. A sweet, fiction story which Frida and I both love equally. We devour this over and over every Spring.
- Plant, Sow, Make and Grow. An awesome book on gardening with children, with activities and things to grow for every season (northern hemisphere).
- My First Book About How Things Grow. A sticker book and book to read all in one, this is a simple introduction to how things grow covering plant lifecycles, parts of a plant, seed dispersal, and more.
- Growing For Beginners. This looks brilliant to use with children and I feel that it will last us for years. I’ve just ordered this but I’m looking forward to it!
- How Do Flowers Grow? Frida loves a lift-the-flap book, and this simple one is great.
What will you be growing this year? Are you a seasoned gardener or will this be your first year growing from seed with your little one?