It’s hard to know where to start with a garden, especially if you’re doing it with children and want to encourage them to help as well as enjoy it. You need something easy to look after, that grows quickly enough to hold their interest and that they’ll be rewarded with in some way, to make it worth it. I’ve come up with a list of Annie’s favourite plants to grow and they’re all easy enough for beginners.
Sweetpeas / peas
I grow both because they’re really easy and we have the space. If I had to pick just one it’d probably be sweetpeas just because you get so many vases full of flowers if you keep picking regularly. Annie loves it. Peas are really good to grow too because you quickly get food from them and they’re tasty right off the plant which makes them the perfect snack for little ones when they’re working in the garden.
Collect seeds now (once they’re brown and starting to rattle) and either sow immediately if you have somewhere to overwinter them or store in a brown envelope until spring when it’s time to sow. I sow indoors in spring because the slugs in my garden love to kill any young seedlings they find, so I only plant out once they need support. On my veggie patch at the community garden I was able to sow my peas direct – they don’t have a slug problem which makes things much easier.
They’re easy to grow, beautiful and huge – perfect for children. You can sow in a pot or direct outdoors and can expect them to bloom from mid-summer to autumn. I had a weird year with sunflowers this year – I had one bloom in June after some warm weather but then all of them got eaten by slugs. I planted some more in the community garden and they’re giants! Annie was so impressed with them and I’m going to try and harvest the seeds for roasting and to sow next year.
Very easy to grow and they look a little bit incredible. We grew these beauties this year (they turned orange a few weeks after this photo was taken) and I’m using one in my Halloween display. Next year I plan to grow white ones too and a selection of squashes and courgettes. They’re really easy to grow, they just need a bit of space.
Most children love strawberries so this will be exciting for most little ones. I have some normal strawberries and some white ones – both are delicious and they’re pretty to look at too so they’re at home in a container or in a flower border as much as they are in an allotment.
If you’re wanting to get some free plants and a head start on next year, find a friend with a strawberry plant (or buy one from a garden centre) and look for the baby plant that it’s trying to produce. It’s easy to tell what the runner is, it has a long stalk sideways with a few leaves and you can see the roots underneath the cluster. Pin it down in some potting compost, I use a piece of wire bent in half to secure it. It may also send out another shoot, you’ll want to cut that off to get the energy focused on the runner you’re potting up.
Again, this is another easy one that looks amazing. And most kids love sweetcorn. I planted mine a bit late this year so although they look great and they’ve all got corn ripening on them, I’m not sure I’ll get to harvest them in time. Next year I’m planning on growing normal sweetcorn as well as pink popping corn, I like the idea of growing things you don’t get in supermarkets.
I hope this has given you some ideas of where to start or what to grow next. I can’t wait to start planting again in the spring!