Winter Gardening: How to keep Kids in the Garden
So you have taken advantage of Lockdown to grow things as a family. Your kids have been watching their sunflowers tower above them and stealing cherry tomatoes and cucamelons from the vine but what things grow in winter?
Winter is actually a great time to get kids involved. They will just need a little more patience as some of what you will be planting will be for Spring. There are plenty of little jobs to keep them going though.
Below you will see lots of things that you can plant over winter. The list is not exhaustive but it should be enough to keep the patch producing. But added to this there are other tasks that have to carry on.
Your overwintering veg needs to contend with the weather. It shouldn't have to compete with weeds too though. So it is good to get your little one to regularly weed their bit of the patch so the nasty weed don't take over. Caution: you may need to help them understand what is weed so that all your spring onions aren't accidentally weeded out!
Even though it can be wet there may be times that you need to water too. Especially when you are growing in containers. Get them their own mini watering can and your little one can help with this.
If the weather is bad and you really can't get out then planning your planting is a great way to keep kids involved. They can look over seed catalogues and pick out what they would like to grow then make drawings or collages of the plot and how it will look. Maybe imagine how a little raised bed all of their own will be planted.
Build a Bug Hotel
Bugs are always fascinating so use twigs and things from around the garden to make your own little bug hotel. Hours of fun, counting bugs and identifying which bugs have made their home there.
Look after the Wildlife
Wildlife is part of the garden's ecosystem so look after the birds by giving them food and water over the winter. And they will return to eat the caterpillars from your plants in the Spring and Summer. You could even put up bird boxes and make a hedgehog house if you have the time and space.
Veg that Grow in Winter
So on to what you can plant....
Swiss chard is a fabulous colourful veg and now is the perfect time to plant it. It is a cool season crop so put in plug plants now and then plant the seeds 2 to 3 weeks before the last spring frost date. It is ideal for containers too so you can plant it right outside the kitchen door. Harvest it as a “cut-and-come-again” crop and use it as you would spinach.
Onions & Garlic
Chilies & Peppers
January is a great time to start to grow chilli plants on a warm windowsill. Check out how to grow them here. Grow at Home: chilli Peppers and once they are started in about February you can start off your pepper plants. Grow at home: Sweet Bell Peppers/ Capsicum
What could be more fun than growing Mushrooms? Do these at any time over the winter - just find a spot where they aren't going to dry out and you are away. There are several ways to grow them which are all covered in this blog so take a look if you fancy your own mushroom farm Grow at Home: Mushrooms.
This is another indoor growing activity that could get your kids trying all sorts of veg (without knowing it!) You can grow most veg such as beetroot, peas, rocket, cress, broccoli, chard, cauliflower, cabbage. You just eat them when they are very young sprinkled on sandwiches, pasta, soup etc. It is a great one to balance all the waiting for things to sprout in Spring as they are ready to eat in a few weeks. Top Tip: microgreens seeds come in packs of 100s of seeds as you need quite a few of them. They cost about the same as regular seed packets though so are much cheaper 'per seed'. They are the same seeds you would get in the regular packets though so keep a few to fill your veg garden next year. You can read about it here Grow at Home: nutritious Microgreens or see the mats in action over on our YouTube Channel Microgreens Growing Mats
Flowers are important in your garden as they attract pollinators which you need for veg growing. Certain types can also ideal as Companion Planting to deter pests form eating your crops. And of course they look pretty.
For Spring colour now is the time to plant flower bulbs - crocus, snowdrop, daffodil and tulip are all easy for children to plant. They can also be grown in pots if you don't have space. Just show them which way up they go and you are away. To keep things moving set up a production line with one person digging the hole and the next planting the bulb. Then swap when they (and you!) inevitably get bored.
This is one for right now and the kids will love it. Get them to collect seeds from - Sweet Peas, Sunflowers, Love in the Mist, Poppies, Calendula or Lupin. Dry them out and label them so that you can sow them when Spring comes. If you aren't growing any of these then ask neighbours if you could collect any they aren't using. The advantage of this is that if they are growing well in your neighbours gardens then they will likely grow well in yours as you'll have similar soil. You can also look out along the road side. You may find the odd poppy or other flower that has sprouted where it shouldn't.
You could even think big and grow a tree! Trees grow in winter so take an apple pip, an acorn or a horse chestnut and plant them in a little pot. They will be fine outside as they need the cold to germinate. Then come Spring you will start to see your own mini forest!
If you want a low cost way to keep your gardening going during winter then you can start to grow veg from your left overs.
Place cut carrot tops in a shallow dish of water and they will sprout - you can use the tops as fresh carrot flavoured leaves for salads and soups. You could also regrow lettuce and celery from the base in the same way. Try growing orange or lemon pips in a little pot.
What did you do?
So, there are plenty of things that can keep you and your little ones on your growing journey. I hope this has inspired you with some kids gardening ideas. This blog was produced as a direct result of a request from one of our Instagram followers @shedsews so if you have an idea for a blog or a gardening subject that is really puzzling you then do let us know. We would also love to hear what you will try to grow in winter - whether it is one of the ideas here or something of your own. Please comment or tag Haxnicks in your picture so we can see what worked and share it with others!
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