Gardening with my children

As previously stated, I’m not much of a green thumb. Well, I haven’t been until now. It seems the gardening bug has finally bitten me hard enough to keep me infected. Well, here’s hoping anyway.

I’ve spent the last 2 days trawling eBay for my seeds. I was determined to avoid anything genetically modified although I have purchased a hybrid sweet corn which is apparently a natural cross (I don’t mind this so much but would have preferred an heirloom variety). I’ve had a wonderful time deciding if I should get traditional heading broccoli or one that grows more like the florets I would cut it into, and which of the wacky and wonderful colours to buy them in. Did you know that there are heirloom varieties of brussel sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower that all come in purple! I decided to go for a traditional cauli but the purple broccoli I just could not go past. And Martin opted for purple sprouts too (they’re bought for him to eat after all, I don’t like them).

I’ve bought rainbow carrots, black skinned watermelon, purple beans, purple cabbage (seems to be quite a purple theme in both vegetable and in my choice of varieties) as well as some other less traditional food plants. I’ve bought nasturtiums which are pretty, easy to grow and the leaves and flowers are both edible. The baby leaves are quite nice, albeit spicy as I remember from picking through my grandmothers garden but I think the larger leaves were a bit too bitey for me as a child. I thought the children would enjoy enjoy growing sunflowers too (as would I as I have never grown them either) and I’ve also bought dandelions. Yes, the bright yellow flowers with their “clock” seed pods. The flowers, leaves and roots are all edible and the roots can be harvested and used as a coffee substitute.

This last point is one of the reasons I bought them. I LOVE my coffee but all coffee where I live here in Melbourne comes with some usually substantial carbon miles, even more so for decaf if it has been decaffeinated using Swiss water technique. Once peak oil strikes, coffee is going to become very very pricey and probably an excellent source of currency. Yes, some coffee is grown in Australia but it is not going to be anywhere near enough to supply the caffeine addiction of Australians. Having something I can replace it with would be great. Anyway, I figured it’s worth a try. The leaves and flowers can all be used in salads too and I believe there are also medicinal uses for dandelions. I fully intend on growing them in a gutter in order to prevent my garden beds and lawn from being taken over by what most of us consider to be a weed though.

I’ve also bought hyssop and marigolds. Hyssop was an impulse buy as apparently it attracts insects but repels white cabbage moth and I know that white cabbage moth can decimate brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and cabbages) so I figured it would look great planted at the end of my vegetable beds and be nice and useful too. Marigolds are a wonderful red, orange and yellow flowering plant and although I’m not sure if I have the correct variety, I know Calendula is another name for it (or at least some of them) so I may have a wonderful healing herb on hand as well as something that is great when grown with tomatoes.

One of my other main objectives over the next 2 months is to get my children, Jasper in particular, interested in gardening. So far so good. We started with growing alfalfa in egg cartons cut lengthwise which had added pipe cleaners and drawn on eyes for hairy caterpillars. Surprisingly and happily I discovered that Jasper enjoyed eating the sprouts too. Win-win there I’d say.

Our second foray into kids and gardening was to sprout the carrot tops we’d cut off from our heirloom carrots we’d blanched last week. The helpful point here was that many of the tops had already sprouted so I just popped them in a cloth lined tray and kept the cloth damp (out of paper towel). Some have done well, others not so well but today we planted them in soil. I know they won’t grow a new tap root (the part we eat) but I am hoping to be able to grow them to produce seeds which means I will have scored some heritage organic seeds for nothing more than the price of some potting mix, a little water and 2 milk cartons, 1 apple juice carton and an orange juice carton which is what we cut down to plant them in. I am all out of pots. Apparently they should grow into quite a pretty ornamental plant too so another win-win here.

Jasper and I also had a bonding day a few weekends ago where we went to Bunnings and bought a pot, potting mix and something to plant in it. Completely Jaspers choice – he wanted to plant some flowers. He chose 2 punnets, 1 of yellow toned violas and 1 of black violas for tiger flowers.we planted them together and we water them together when they need it. I am very much looking forward to masses of flowers to reward him for his hard work.

gardening with childrenOur next gardening job will be to plant our seeds to have seedlings ready for planting out once we’ve moved as I plan to get in our veggie beds the minute we get settlement on the house (planning ahead much for a house that we haven’t even yet purchased? lol). We will start planting our seeds in 2-3 weeks. Until then I need to keep our thumbs green so I am looking for some more kid gardening ideas. I’m thinking egg heads with alfalfa hair for a start but I could use some more ideas. I also plan to make some newspaper pots for growing our seedlings in which I think the kids will love helping with that, and we might try and grow some spring onions from the cut tips too. I also want to try and sprout some cannelini beans or borlotti beans (depends which I have in the pantry), some chick peas and even some chia and quinoa, all of which we could subsequently grow to harvest.

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2 thoughts on “Gardening with my children

  1. Peta says:

    Hey just wondering if u had a certain eBay seller you bought most from? Also are u going to build your own vege beds, or buy them?

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