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Spring is in the air - we hope! As the last of the cold snap passes, April is a great time to get gardening with your little ones. Between making mud pies and building a fort, getting out in the garden is good for your growing child.
Plus, some of the best plants and flowers that your kids can get growing are also the best for bees and other wildlife. This means your children get to watch their efforts grow and blossom and help the biodiversity of their garden all at the same time.
TOP TIP: Grab an insect guide or app ready for the summer months so you can identify the little critters making their homes and getting their food from your efforts when they are in full bloom.
So should you go for seeds or seedlings? And with so many varieties and options, which are the easiest to grow and hardest to kill?
Here’s our run down of the best plants to grow with your little ones this spring.
Growing from seed is fun. You can even turn it into a bit of a science experiment. Get three seeds and three pots. Give one light, soil and water. Give one soil and water but no light and the other light and soil but no water. Get you child to guess which will grow the biggest and they’ve got a quick science lesson sorted.
Growing from seed also lets them see the whole process straight through to flowering or fruiting, which can feel like a big achievement. But if you’re short on time, (or your plants maybe get a little neglected), you can always pick up seedlings where part of the job is done for you.
The upside of seedlings is that you know the seed is definitely going to grow. Not all seeds you plant will sprout for one reason or another and buying seedlings give you more chance of a big bloom.
You’ll get more cash starting from seed, but seedlings can be useful if you’re short on space.
Whichever one you choose, you’ll have great fun planting them out in the garden later in the year.
TOP TIP: Not all plants need to grow indoors or a greenhouse first. Check the packet for when you need to plant them and where they like to grow.
Sunflowers are an easy plant to grow and they do grow. Look for the giant sunflower seeds and have a growing competition to see who gets the largest. Sunflowers can usually be planted indoors or in a greenhouse before planting out in the garden.
Like their name, it’s best to put your seeds somewhere really sunny and warm while they are sprouting. If you don’t have space in your garden for the tall plants, they grow really well in pots - just not as tall as when they can lay roots in the soil.
Tomatoes are great to grow no matter how little space you have. For little hands, get the smaller varieties, like moneymaker or cherry. Pot up indoors if you’re planting earlier in the year and then if you have space, plant outside.
These tomatoes grow well in pots, hanging baskets, up the sides of fences or in anything else you can reuse, like those wellies they outgrew last year. You may need a bamboo stick to help support the central stalk as it grows, but other than that, keep them well-watered and wait for the flowers.
If you want to get lots of fruit from your vines, you need to pinch out your plants. You’ll see the stalks growing a couple of months after planting. If you look between the branch and the main stalk, you’ll see new little leaves and branches growing. Pinch these out when you see them (or get your little one to spot them and pinch) so that your tomato plant puts all its efforts into growing lots of lovely flowers. These flowers then turn into the fruit.
Pick them with the fruit goes red but don’t expect the ripe ones to stick around long as even the most anti-tomato child can’t help but eat these juicy, sweet fruits.
If you’re not a tomato fan, cornflowers are bright, colourful and easy to grow. As they are a wildflower, you don’t need to pay much attention once you plant the seeds in the ground. Give it a water when you water the rest of your garden and wait for these blue flowers to bloom.
Cornflower attracts the bees so during the summer months, you can bee watch with your kids. Or go one stage further and build them a bee hotel.
Create a real life Jack and the Beanstalk in your garden with planting beans. Most green bean varieties grow fast and tall. Green beans, runner beans, peas, and mange tout will all grow straight outside when you plant them in the ground.
You can make some supports for them with bamboo but these are great plants to get into a growing competition between siblings and friends. They’ll start growing fresh veg in a few months. Again, they need a bit of water when you do the rest of the garden and then it’s just waiting to pick the veg.
You might want to keep an eye out for when they are ready to harvest as little mouths can snaffle them all up when playing in the garden.
This is the one plant that we recommend you get from a sapling. Notoriously hard to grow from seed but once they start, there’s no stopping them. A strawberry plant will fruit every year (and grow to the space it lives in). These need very little time and attention so get the planted in the ground and wait for them to fruit.
Kids will love picking strawberries from around June onwards, usually fruiting in time for Wimbledon. Home grown strawberries taste way better than shop bought, too.
Not all herbs are equal when it comes to growing in the UK. Sage, oregano and thyme are safe bets as these need little time and attention. Plant them in and watch them grow. You can grow herbs on the windowsill or in between your flowers.
Or make a little pizza patch with some tomatoes and oregano so your little ones can go pick their own pizza sauce ingredients in the summer.
You can easily grow basil on the windowsill - it depends on where you live if you’ll get a tasty crop from growing outdoors.
Finally, courgettes are great to get kids growing. These easy plants will flower and sprout plenty of veg. The difference between a courgette and a marrow? Probably about a week if you go on holiday and don’t harvest them in time.
You can grow these easily in pots but the more space they have, the more veg they will produce. And we know that if kids grow it, they’re more likely to eat it.