Growing your own food with children is great fun. It’s an amazing hands-on learning experience, wonderful hobby and perfect for spending time together and our wellbeing.
Here are 12 easy herbs and vegetables to grow throughout the year!
There’s a growing suggestion and step by step instructions for each month.
Food growing teaches us about responsibility and where our food comes from. We have to look after our plants, making sure we remember to water and feed them and give them what they need to thrive. Watching them grow provides a sense of ownership and achievement.
There’s something magical about gardening and children seem to get this. They find it amazing that vegetables and fruit can grow from the tiny seeds they plant. And it is incredible!
Growing your own food encourages children to eat and enjoy more fruit and vegetables. There’s nothing more rewarding than eating something you’ve grown yourself, is there?!
Cress can be grown in pots indoors all year round.
It grows very quickly – in fact, it only takes about a week between sowing and cropping cress!
Perfect for adding to salads, sandwich fillings or sprinkling on top of soups.
Fill small containers, such as clean empty yoghurt pots/fruit punnets, with moist compost (you can even use moist cotton wool instead of compost).
Scatter some cress seeds on top of the compost/cotton wool and gently press the seeds down.
Place the pot on a sunny window sill and watch your cress start to grow!
Spray gently with water if it looks like the pot is drying out.
The cress is ready to harvest when it is 5cm tall.
This will take about 6-8 days. Simply snip the cress with scissors.
Sow indoors: January-February Plant out: May-July Harvest: July-October
Sow 1 seed in a 9cm pre-watered pot. Cover with 1cm compost. Leave on a warm window sill. Keep pot moist.
Once the aubergine plant is about 20cm tall, move it into a larger pot to continue growing.
From late May onwards, the aubergine plant can be planted outside.
Before doing this, ‘harden off’ the plant (this means preparing the plant for outdoor temperatures so place the pot outside during the day and bring it in at night. Do this for about a week).
Dig a hole in a sunny sheltered position, place the plant in it and firm up the surrounding soil. Water well.
Flowers should begin to appear in 3-4 weeks and the aubergines will grow from the flowers!
Sow/Plant out: March-September Harvest: June-November
Sow spinach seeds directly into the ground from March onwards.
Make a seed drill (a channel in the soil to sow the seeds along) about 3cm deep.
Put the spinach seeds into the drill, 3-4cm apart. Cover with soil and water them. Seedlings will appear in 2-3 weeks.
Spinach leaves are ready to pick once 5-6 larger leaves have appeared.
You can cut the leaves 2-3 times before the crop will finish.
If you sow spinach every 2-3 weeks, you can enjoy a continuous supply throughout the summer and early autumn!
Sow outdoors: March-July Harvest: May-November
You can sow carrots directly in the ground or in containers.
Directly in the ground: Make a seed drill (a channel in the soil to sow the seeds along) about 2cm deep.
Put the seeds into the drill,1cm apart or as thinly as you can. Cover the seeds with soil and water them.
As the seedlings emerge, they need space (10cm) to grow so keep the strongest seedlings and remove the other seedlings inbetween.
In containers : Choose ones at least 20-30cm deep with drainage holes.
Sow seeds thinly so the carrots have enough room to grow.
Keep the containers well watered as they can dry out quickly.
Carrots will be ready to harvest in 6-8 weeks.
Sow: late April – May Plant out: June-July Harvest: July-October
Sow 1 seed 2.5cm deep in a 7.5cm pre-watered pot. Leave on a warm window sill.
Once the courgette seedling has 4-6 leaves, it is big enough to be planted outside from June onwards once the weather is warmer.
Courgettes also work well in large containers (about 45cm diameter).
Before planting out, ‘harden off’ (this means preparing the plant for outdoor temperatures so place the pot outside during the day and bring it in at night.
Do this for about a week).
Dig a hole in a sunny position, water well, place the seedling in it and firm up the surrounding soil.
Courgettes are hungry and thirsty plants so water them regularly and give them tomato feed every 2 weeks when they have flowers.
Harvest the courgettes when they are 10-20cm long).
Sow: March-July Harvest: June-September
Sugarsnap peas are deliciously sweet and juicy and can be eaten raw in salads or cooked in a stir fry.
You can sow them directly in the ground or in containers – they work well planted in a circle, growing up a wigwam! They like a sheltered sunny position.
Directly in the ground: Make a circle in the soil about 5cm deep and make a wigwam around the circle using 4 bamboo canes and tie the tops together with string. Sow peas about 15cm apart.
In containers : Fill a large container (at least 35cm in diameter) with compost. Make a wigwam as above and sow peas 15cm apart around the edge of the pot.
Peas are ready to harvest when you can start to the see the shape of the peas inside the pod!
Sow/Plant out: April-July Harvest: May-November
You can sow rainbow chard directly into the ground from April onwards or sow 2-3 seeds in a pot indoors and plant out once the seedlings have 2-5 leaves.
Make a seed drill (a channel in the soil to sow the seeds along) about 2-3cm deep.
Put the rainbow chard seeds into the drill, 3-4cm apart.
Cover the seeds with soil and water them. Keep the ground moist as the rainbow chard grows.
As the seedlings emerge, they need space -5cm for growing mini leaves and 30cm for growing large leaves.
Mini rainbow chard leaves (smaller than 10cm) are perfect for salads. Larger leaves (20-30cm) are delicious in cooking.
Sow: February- August Harvest: April-October
Radishes are quick, easy and fun to grow from seed, ready to eat in as little as four weeks!
Sow outdoors where the radishes are to grow.
You can grow them in the ground or in containers.
Make a drill (a channel in the soil to sow the seeds along) and sow the seeds 1cm deep and space them 2.5cm apart.
Keep the soil or compost moist.
Why not sow radish every 2-3 weeks for a continuous supply for your salads?!
Harvest the radishes when they are about 2.5cm in diameter.
Sow: April – September Harvest: May-October
Rocket is easy to grow either directly in the ground or in containers.
You can cut the leaves and they will regrow up to 4 times.
Rocket leaves are delicious in salads and ready to eat in as little as four weeks!
Sow the rocket seeds 0.5-1cm deep.
If you’re sowing in rows, then space the rows 15cm apart from each other.
If growing in containers, the container will need to be about 30cm wide and 25cm deep.
Keep the soil or compost moist.
You can sow rocket seeds every 2-3 weeks for a continuous supply!
Harvest the rocket leaves when they are about 5-10cm tall.
Lots of herbs can be grown in pots indoors all year round but they need at least 6 hours of bright sunlight daily.
Fill 7.5cm pots (make sure they have drainage holes in the bottom) with compost and sprinkle several basil seeds on the surface.
Cover the seeds with a thin layer of compost.
Water very gently. Place a saucer under the pot to catch any excess water.
Put the pot in a plastic bag and wait for the seeds to germinate, normally 1-2 weeks.
Once seedlings appear, remove the bag. Continue growing on a sunny window sill.
When the seedlings are big enough to handle, put each in its own 7.5cm pot.
Keep the compost moist. The best time to water basil is in the morning.
You can start harvesting basil once there are at least 3 sets of leaves.
Pick the leaves regularly and pinch out any flowers to encourage more leaves to grow.
Sow/Plant out: October-February Harvest: June-September
Garlic is an easy crop to grow, takes up little space and can be sown directly in the ground or grown in large pots.
It is best to buy garlic bulbs from a garden centre or mail-order supplier rather than using supermarket bulbs to ensure they are healthy and disease-free.
Separate the individual garlic cloves from the bulb and choose a sunny spot to plant out (or position your pot).
Push each clove 5cm into the soil. The wide root part of the clove should be facing down and the pointed bit facing upwards.
Space each clove 15cm apart and allow 30cm between rows.
If growing in large pots, also space cloves 15cm apart.
Garlic is ready to harvest when the leaves turn yellow and start to wilt (usually from June onwards).
Allow the harvested bulbs to fully dry out in the sunshine before storing them indoors.
Chives can be grown in pots indoors all year round.
Fill 9cm pots (make sure they have drainage holes in the bottom) with compost and water well. Place a saucer under the pot to catch any excess water.
Sprinkle about 10 seeds on the surface of the wet compost. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of compost.
Put the pot in a plastic bag or cover with cling film and leave in a light, warm place.
Once the chive seedlings appear, usually in 1-2 weeks, remove the bag or clingfilm.
Continue growing in a place which has plenty of light. Water the chives when the compost feels dry.
You can start harvesting the leaves when they are about 15cm tall.
Cut the leaves as required with scissors, snipping close to the base – the more often they’re harvested, the more new leaves will be produced.
Further information on gardening with children:
Garden Organic has some fantastic resources to download. These include grow your own cards which include growing instructions and growing calendar. There are also games and growing activities which are useful for schools.
RHS has created some Learning From Home resources to encourage children to start gardening.
The Kew Gardens Children’s Cookbook is a fantastic introduction to growing your own vegetables. The step-by-step guides to growing vegetables in containers, window boxes, a garden or allotment are easy to follow. It also contains delicious recipes.
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