How to keep the kids happy in the garden


As we've all been cooped up at home for weeks now, due to the Covid-19 lockdown, those families with access to a garden are counting their lucky stars.

But what to do out there? SA’s best known gardener Keith Kirsten gives answers on how to get kids excited to get outdoors.

Why should parents encourage their children to garden?

To foster their creative instincts. To teach them how plants grow, the wonders of nature and where our food comes.

What are the benefits of starting a family vegetable garden?

It benefits the household by supplying them with fresh vegetables to eat and these vegetables are not affected by commercial cultivation and spraying methods.

Vegetables are easy to grow, and fresh vegetables from the garden contain more vitamins than those bought from the shop.

The whole family can enjoy watching them grow and harvesting them.

What does gardening teach children?

It teaches them how plants grow and the wonders of nature and our responsibility to take care of what you have sown or planted.

It’s relaxing and it is extremely healthy to be outdoors instead of sitting in front of a computer.

How can parents get started?

Sow some seeds in upcycled containers or in troughs - it does not have to be expensive.

One can first achieve success in containers (just make sure you water them adequately) and then move on to planting in the garden or simply germinate the plants in troughs and then transplant the seedlings into the garden.

Alternatively trays can be purchased with vegetables that have already been started and then these could be planted into containers (the size of the container should be guided by the size of the crop at maturity) or directly into the  garden.

With containers it’s easier to create the idea of ownership so that kids feel responsible for their own containers.

What are the easiest vegetables to start with? 

Beans and peas will grow in spring, summer and autumn. Carrots can be planted from August to November.

Tomato seedlings should be planted in early summer. Radishes can be planted from spring to late summer. Lettuce can be grown throughout the year in most parts of South Africa.

If you want to grow sweet, juicy mealies, look for seeds called sweetcorn. Plant the seeds in early summer (October to early December).

Cabbage is easily grown almost throughout the year (avoid maturing in midsummer or sowing seeds in midwinter). Plant eggplant seedlings in spring - also known by their Indian name “brinjals” or the French one, “aubergines”.

Growing fresh produce helps to alleviate the rising costs of food, while vegetables and herbs supply essential nutrients to children and it is also great fun!

Do you garden with your children?

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