As much as we do not want to wish Summer away there is definitely a strong sense that Autumn is on it’s way and it’s beginning to show in the garden. We have nearly harvested the summer crops and our daughter was so exited to pull the carrots she grew from seed, our son is still desperately trying to find the last remaining edible blackberries and the caterpillars have feasted like kings on our radishes. The garden is looking slightly bare.
Winter gardening with children
Having an area where kids can get involved in planting vegetables is important to help them learn but more so it gives a sense of pride and self worth to children to harvest their work and bring it into the kitchen. Our daughter has well and truly caught the gardening bug and she is now looking at sowing her winter vegetables. As you probably already know, we don’t grow all food starting in Spring. If like us you are wanting to grow Winter vegetables with your children now is the time to get a move on. There is a narrow window of opportunity for Autumn planting where it is not too warm or too cold so get those seeds and bulbs in now and it could be a fantastic use of a rainy day. If you haven’t got anything to plant or are not sure what to plant here is a list of suggestions but as we have said the window of opportunity is short so get those seeds ordered or better yet go get them from the garden centre as soon as you can.
Plants to sow early September for a Winter crop
Winter Spinach: A good winter spinach at this time of year will likely give a light harvest in late autumn and if all goes well resume production in the spring. Remember to check details on the packet for hardiness and sowing dates.
Winter Salads: Oriental or winter salad seed mixes should do well into late autumn and survive until spring if covered to protect from frost. Names to look out for in the mixes are: rocket, mustards, mizuna, komatsuna, mibuna, pak choi, choi sum and tat soi. Really any fast growing leaf crop in the brassica family.
Winter Radish: Radish is the go to vegetable for teaching kids about growing because they are easy to plant, come to harvest very quickly and come in a variety of colours. Remember to check sowing dates but I can’t imagine a radish you couldn’t plant now, however some are better suited to autumn planting.
Next comes the vegetables that will have to survive over winter for harvest next year. If you live in a particularly cold area it’s worth checking your hardiness zone rating against the recommendation of the seed and provide some shelter from cold winds.
Plants to sow August/early September for a Spring crop
Spring Lettuce: Nothing much to be said, there are plenty of cultivars of spring lettuce, though not as hardy as some of the other plants here. Just remember this is different from a regular lettuce so check the seed sowing dates.
Spring Onions: You might imagine given the name than any cultivar would be suitable but some are far hardier than others and it’s worth checking before you buy. Coming in both red and white these are an enjoyable plant for kids to grow and simple for young hands to harvest.
Spring Cabbage: Very easy to grow, although brassica plants have a tendency to attract naughty pests to eat the leaves. Again different from its’ regular counterpart so make sure to check the sowing dates. A little more difficult to grow, might bolt in a mild winter and also requires a little more room than the other plants.
Broad beans: A favourite amongst farmers as a break crop, easy to grow with plenty of yield and the nitrogen fixing roots leave the soil fertilised for the following crop. The tough stems mean the beans don’t need support and the flowers come in pink or white and are quite pretty. Wait for the beans to fully develop before letting your children harvest the pods as ours did this year, a little disappointment but a lesson learned. Again some cultivars are hardier than others so check seed details.
Garlic: Definitely the longest time ’til harvest on the list and one of the least exciting for kids, or maybe just the smelliest however an important plant for the kitchen and one for kids to take pride in having invested so much time and effort. These will likely be bought as bulb and that’s what should be planted at this time of year. There are several types of garlic, I highly recommend a hard neck cultivar as being hardier and more wind tolerant. Don’t bother planting the garlic you buy from the supermarket, it is often grown abroad and not suited the local climate. Garlic also likes less acidic soil so you might want to apply some lime, that’s ground chalk not builders lime.
We have really enjoyed gardening with our kids this Spring and Summer. The enthusiasm they both have for being outdoors, the attention and care they give to the plants/wildlife and the sheer pride they take in looking after their garden is everything we could have hoped for when we started. Giving them a space that is theirs, giving them responsibility, letting them see for themselves seeds growing, flourishing and sometimes dying is exactly what gardening with children is all about. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
We hope you enjoyed this post and we would love to see what you are growing with your kids on social media.