I’m fortunate enough to have an allotment, and my daughter Sydney will often be found there with me. She’s something of a fair-weather gardener though, not quite as committed as I am.
We’ve had a plot for 3 years now, and she has been visiting with me from day one. I learnt very early on that to keep a child’s interest, you need to grow things that they’ll enjoy. That doesn’t necessarily mean things they’ll eat. Children are, by their very nature, impatient people. So, you need a mix of things that grow rapidly alongside things they’ll enjoy eating. Seeing something grow quickly is enough to keep them waiting for the things they really want.
Every child is, of course, different, but these 5 fruits, vegetables and flowers are usually a safe bet for most. Thankfully, they’re all really easy to grow too!
Pumpkins (and other Squashes)
These are a safe bet if you have enough space. You’ll need at least 1 sqm per plant though, so don’t try them in a window box! Pumpkins not only grow very quickly but in the right conditions will also grow very large. Children are usually more than happy to wait until Halloween before harvesting, but you can usually see how much they’re growing visually each week. Sometimes, even overnight they can visually gain size.
Other squashes are also worth a try too. My daughter adores growing courgettes, though she won’t actually eat them! She does like to cradle them in her arms once harvested though.
Courgettes, in particular, are very fast growers and can double in size overnight.
Everyone loves eating these straight from the pod! My daughters’ school have even started giving out pea pods as snacks from time to time. Relatively easy to grow, though you’ll probably need to protect them from being eaten by birds.
A huge number of varieties can be found – some plants reaching a few metres tall, others merely a foot or so.
I’d advise starting with the small ones as they’re easier to protect.
Eaten straight from the pod, they’re deliciously sweet and crunchy. They usually crop very heavily though, so there will always be plenty to take home too.
We have 12 strawberry plants on our plot, and it’s never enough! Despite them cropping well, very few ever make it home. She will happily check for ripe fruits, then devour them straight away. This is often the very first thing she does when we arrive on the plot. Occasionally she’ll bring me one too if I’m lucky.
Most people buy strawberry plants or ‘runners’ from garden centres or supermarkets, but they can be grown from seed too.
You should expect to get at least 3 years out of each plant, so they’re a good money saver too.
Very easy to take care of, and their root system is shallow so they don’t need too much space. Hanging baskets are a good choice too if you’re short on space.
There are two schools of thought on potatoes among the ‘grow your own’ crowd. Some say they’re not worth the space they take up because supermarkets sell them so cheap. Others, quite rightly, state that you simply can’t get better tasting potatoes than those you grow yourself.
Sydney adores Jacket Potatoes, mash and of course chips – so these are a safe bet. They need plenty of water though, especially during dry spells. I’ve always tasked my daughter with the watering – a task she loves doing, and of course that makes them ‘hers’.
Potatoes will grow pretty much anywhere – even a bin bag or bucket (with holes) will do the job. You can, however, buy ‘potato planter’ bags in most supermarkets from spring onwards, usually for no more than a pound or two.
Sweet Pea (Flowers)
Sweet peas are the perfect flowers for children to grow. The more the flowers are removed, the more flowers they’ll give. It’s quite easy to get a few bouquets a week from a single plant – and of course, all children adore flowers. Sydney will often pick a bunch to take home for mummy. They can be bought as ready-made (‘plug’) plants from garden centres, however, they’re so easy and quick to grow that it’s worth simply growing from seed at a fraction of the cost.
We, of course, grow many other things on our plot. Sydney has a fascination with the comfrey plant for some reason, but I can’t see that enthusiasm is shared by many other children!