Sowing the Seeds of Tomorrow

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The offending articles

When my godson was three his favourite foods were apples and peas: a predilection that I naively assumed was the norm for small children. As my son started on solid foods I offered him fruit and vegetables with enthusiastic expectations, only to find he cried when peas appeared on his plate and the concept of eating apple brought on sulking and tantrums.

Perplexed, I persevered – we sowed seeds together, pricked out tomato seedlings, watched apples swell and picked as many colourful crops as we could – yellow ‘Allgold’ raspberries, ‘Purple Haze’ carrots, ‘Pinkberry’ blueberries, deep red ‘Boltardy’ beetroot, striped ‘Green Tiger’ tomatoes and purple-podded ‘Blauwschokker’ peas.

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Vivid colours motivate children to try new foods…

Gradually he started trying a wider range of fruit and vegetables – it’s hard not to get excited about ripening tomatoes when you can remember pushing the seeds into moist compost with your fingers. That was over 5 years ago, and this week my daughter (6) decided she likes our homegrown beetroot and my son (now 9) ate one of our James Grieve apples whole – an unimaginable feat just a year ago. 

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First steps – sowing seeds…

We have all benefited from growing food as a family. Each spring we choose our crops for the next growing season and from that moment, the anticipation begins. This February we made our choices and were soon surrounded by a colourful collection of seed packets from the Fun To Grow range, courtesy of Suttons Seeds. We began with Table Top Tomato, sowing the seeds almost immediately, then started off the delightfully alliterative Crocodile Cucumber, Mini Muncher Peas, spherical Bowling Carrots and the non-edible but nonetheless exciting Dancing Plant and Caterpillar Plant a few weeks later.

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Pleased with the new arrivals

Recycling has been a family priority this year, so we began by making our own seed pots out of old newspaper. It’s a fun job and the kids quickly got the hang of wrapping the paper strips at just the right tension so they would slide off easily once the bottoms had been firmly secured.

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First job: roll the pot sides

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Pressing down the base firmly ensures the compost won’t escape later

Then we filled our pots with compost and read the seed packet instructions – learning about the varying depths, light conditions and germination temperatures that different seeds require. 

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Writing labels

Once the pots were labelled, we counted the days until germination and slowly but surely tiny shoots and seed leaves began to appear. The appearance of new growth, that magical emergence, fills cold spring days with joy for adult gardeners – so what a wonderful experience for young children for whom the world is naturally filled with enchantment. 

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Crocodile cucumber buckets

In late spring we planted the Crocodile Cucumbers into a couple of broken buckets, the Table Top Tomatoes went in the greenhouse with the Caterpillar Plants, and the Mini Muncher Peas and Bowling Carrots began developing in the vegetable beds.

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Table Top Tomatoes were a sweet hit with the kids

We ate peas fresh from the pod throughout June and the tomatoes are still being picked and ripening in the greenhouse. The cucumbers have produced so many fruit that we’ve had enough for tzatziki – another first for the kids, declared ‘delicious’ and requested as a regular dip with pitta and olives. 

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Tasty Mini Muncher Peas are so low growing that they need no staking and are easily accessible for small people

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These ‘Boltardy’ beets were harvested by the kids for Beetroot and Chocolate cupcakes

The Caterpillar Plants have bloomed all summer in the greenhouse – tiny yellow flowers which have turned into the eponymous caterpillars curled back on their stems, providing seeds for sowing next year. The Sensitive Plants didn’t germinate, so no scientific experiments to test whether the foliage responds to our touch this year. But it’s good that the kids experience growing failures as well as successes – one of the realities of working with nature.

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These delicate, furry caterpillars delighted the kids

Growing our own crops has, without doubt, had a positive effect on the way my kids approach what’s on their plates. But learning about how plants grow, how they provide for us and for wildlife, goes deeper than this. Such experiences help to form lifelong relationships with nature and develop an understanding of its fundamental role in our lives – providing us with enjoyment, wonder and the food upon which we rely.

18 thoughts on “Sowing the Seeds of Tomorrow

  1. Rhizowen (@Rhizowen) says:

    Great work. Have you tried fat baby achochas (Cyclanthera brachystachya)? I call them ‘veghogs’ when working with kids. They quickly pick up on the similarity to little baby hedgehogs and quite enjoy removing the ripe seeds and stuffing or cooking them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • dogwooddays says:

      Hiya, yes we grew them a couple of years ago on the allotment. The kids were tickled pink by the shape, although we didn’t use the fabulous term ‘veghogs’ – I’ll remember that! My son did coin the term ‘gherkamelon’ for our picked cucamelons this year though!! 😊

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  2. Jane says:

    I love this! We aren’t quite so organized with our garden but I try to have some beans and tomatoes every year. My kids fuss over vegetables but they will usually eat the cherry tomatoes and sugar snap peas. We’ve got plenty of broken toy buckets so maybe next spring we’ll plant some seeds in them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • dogwooddays says:

      Thanks Jane. Yes, mine love anything they can pick and pop straight in their mouths – peas, cherry tomatoes strawberries, raspberries and, strangely, oca leaves! But it hasn’t all been plain sailing, especially with my son – but eventually growing food translates into eating it, I believe. Good luck next season with your growing! 😊

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  3. James says:

    An inspiring piece – makes me want to get out the garden books and start planning the planting season for next year with the kids … does it even motivate them to eat turnips? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • dogwooddays says:

      Thanks! Might have to inspire me to eat turnips first!! 😉 Maybe the kids should turn the tables and teach me to grow turnips and swede? Although I have to say I do prefer them when they’re fresh out of the soil…

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  4. Jacky Robinson says:

    Very inspiring, Nic. What do you use as a base for making the newspaper pots? Having just found out that plastic pots can’t be recycled through our local recycling this seems a positive step until recyclable pots are readily available.

    Liked by 1 person

    • dogwooddays says:

      Thanks Jacky. We have a wooden kit that I bought years ago with a base plate which moulds the newspaper as you press it down, but you can use tins or jars to wrap the paper round, fold the paper excess into the open end, slide the jar out and turn it round, then press the folded section against the sealed end of the jar to create the bottom of the pot. Just a long as there’s some newspaper to stop the compost falling out initially, it’ll mesh together as the roots grow. Happy sowing!! 😊

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  5. Ali says:

    Such a heartwarming post. I have found that our children each have things they are drawn to and want to grow each year. One can grow carrots where the rest of us can’t; one likes exotics and the other wants flowers. I look be your pics showing children absorbed in the task!

    Liked by 1 person

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