New beginnings

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I’ve been writing a blog for The Hop Garden for many years, and this is a new off-shoot of that one, for little green fingers.

I hope it might provide some inspiration for those wanting to get out in the garden with small people, but not sure quite where to start.

Gardening with children, even from a very young age, is a wonderful low-cost activity. It also has the added bonus of giving us adults the perfect excuse to switch-off from our often hectic lives for a while and re-connect with the childlike delight that comes from growing and exploring the natural world.

And Spring is a perfect time to start: the nights and mornings are getting lighter and there are some encouraging signs of nature starting to wake up from winter, even in Northern England!

For a simple activity, head out in your garden or the local woods or park and see how many signs of Spring you can spot together such as flowers and buds on trees and bushes.

Take time to look closely at the tiny petals on snowdrops and crocus you find and, if you fancy something a bit more imaginative with a toddler and upwards, ponder on who might live in them (fairies are always a favourite with my daughter!)  A whole host of stories can evolve from these humble beginnings.

It’s also a good time to start sowing seeds, and as soon as they can handle small objects, children will love playing with seeds and compost. I have some wooden paper potters, which aren’t essential, but they have been a great investment for our community garden (I think they were about £8 the last time I checked) as you can make endless pots out of newspaper from them for free.

They are also great for reducing the amount of plastic pots we use and as the paper is compostable, you can plant the whole thing into the ground or into a bigger pot, which is particularly effective for crops such as peas which get a bit grumpy if they have their roots interfered with.
If you’re just starting out, you can’t go far wrong with early peas and a packet of seeds will last for ages. Just plant two in each pot – little hands can push them gently under the surface approximately up to their knuckle deep.

Simply make sure they’re well covered and the exact depth doesn’t really matter as long as they’re aren’t so deep that the port peas give up trying before they get to the surface! Let the strongest seedling grow on once it appears and keep them well watered, but not soaking, on either a window sill or in a greenhouse until the risk of frosts are past.

Peas do need some support – just old twigs and branches stuck in the soil to make a frame will do or you can make an elaborate teepee out of poles and string if you’re feeling more adventurous, which has the added bonus of being an edible hideaway.

I’ve found even the most vegetable-averse child cannot resist a pea they’ve just picked out of the pod 🙂

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