I’ve got to be honest – my kids don’t share the same level of enthusiasm that I have regards gardening, so I’m always having to come up with devious plans to get them interested so they’ll hang out in the veggie patch. Here’s a few of my top tips and success stories – things that have got them munching, exploring and playing much to their mother’s delight.

  1. Grow things BIG – some of my plant choices aren’t always about flavour – the bigger the better seems to attract the kids. This year we planted squash that grew huge – and it became a competition to see which would grow the largest – daily checking was involved and the kids took responsibility for them in the hope that their squash would beat the other. The squash will never get eaten, but totally worth it as it got the kids out there (and it will do nicely in the compost). Next year I’m hoping we’ll have the garden established enough to grow giant pumpkins.
  2. Smile!

    Smile!

    Grow Sunflowers – what’s not to love. The kids love making smiley faces from them, and will eat the seeds directly from the plant. The only downside is the chooks miss out. They’re another BIG thing that can be measured and admired.

  3. A photo from our old house where the kids had loads of peas to choose from.

    A photo from our old house where the kids had loads of peas to choose from.

    Harvesting – make sure there’s lots that kids can go and harvest on a whim. Snowpeas spring to mind as the best foraging food I grow. The kids can scoff these to their hearts delight – just make sure they know how to pull them from the plant without annihilating the whole bush. Cherry tomatoes, beans, raspeberries, strawberries, even parsley and young silver beet get gnawed by my kids. I’ve enjoyed watching them take their friends around the garden and teach them what to pick, proud of their in depth knowledge.

  4. Look sideways  and imagine you're a kid- it is a bit 'bottom-y' - and therefore hilarious!

    Look sideways and imagine you’re a kid- it is a bit ‘bottom-y’ – and therefore hilarious!

    Maybe it’s because of the children’s age but this year’s hit was a squash plant shaped like a bottom… I never thought toilet humour could spread to the vegetable garden. So, if you’ve got pre-teens who think bottoms are hilarious I recommend growing bottom-like vegetables.

  5. Our last remaining ripening Pepino - tastes like watermelon (sort of)

    Our last remaining ripening Pepino – tastes like watermelon (sort of)

    Unusual plants – I try and grow things that are a bit weird and different – such as fruit you wouldn’t see in the supermarket to pique their interest, and encourage them to try new things. This year we have had Black Russian Tomatoes, tasted our first Pepino ( a bit like watermelon in flavour), and a huge range of different squashes.

  6. Let them loose with the garden hose on a hot summer’s evening. I’m almost always guaranteed to get a watering volunteer on a hot night – especially if there’s someone to squirt.
  7. Let them choose the plants – one of my kids loves figs – so this year she has her own fig tree which she’s happy to be responsible for if she gets the first fruit.
  8. If they’re old enough, let them cook, experiment and design with the produce in the garden. My kids make a very yummy bruschetta with basil and tomatoes from the garden, and have been known to concoct some very interesting potions & perfumes from garden delights. This encourages them to explore the garden, and they’re very proud of their creations. This only works if you’re sure that they know what they are, and are not, allowed to use. My kids can identify ripe vs unripe etc which makes it ok to let them loose without worrying about damage or wastage.

My kids are lucky enough to attend a school which has a Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program running – so they do gardening and cooking once a week there also – it seems like that’s a lot of fun when they get to work with their classmates…. I can accept Mum isn’t quite as cool… but I guess that the list above shows that I’m trying!

 

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