Sunday, 2 October 2011

A few tips for growing vegetables with children

As the girls ran out on to the terrace in the cool of the early morning, the first question they asked was 'Are we doing the seeds today?!' They have been asking me this ever since we got the seed packets in our mail box. They love pronouncing all the names of the vegetables even though they refuse to eat most of them. Still, i think, it will pay to spark their interest. I am pretty sure i refused Spinach until the age of twenty. This year, we have also been doing some informal unit studies about seeds, vegetables and gardening in general. Just stuff like making stamps from potatoes, cutting out veg and fruit pictures from magazines, discussing how seeds grow etc. The long summer finally seems to be on the way out and it's a relief to be able to let them out on the terrace and get all hands on. We got some excellent bargain in outdoor toys from Dubizzle- a play house, a plastic slide and lovely handmade doll house. The girls love them.

I have to confess that I feel a bit too precious about my vegetable seedlings and plants. I get nervous when the kids play around with them. While I am learning to relax about it, I gave each of them a little plastic pot to fill up with soil and plant a tomato seed. I felt quite magnanimous but saw that Sara was frowning.

Here's what I have learnt from gardening with my kids...

1- Let them sow what they like along with other robust choices such as tomato and quick-growing options such as rocket, radish and salad leaves. Growing a vegetable they don't normally eat may encourage them to give it a try.

2-If you can, buy them little plastic watering cans. My girls seem to love the watering bit. They think it's all very grown up.

3- Painting plain ceramic or terracotta pots can be great fun. Let them paint their names, the vegetable or just splash around a bit.

4- To get their interest going while the seeds are germinating, buy a couple of vegetable or flower seedlings if possible. In Dubai, it's easy and cheap to get hold of a few marigold seedlings at around 2 dhs each. Give them a couple of those to look after. Plus Marigolds are also great companions for tomatoes and other vegetables. Apparently aphids can't stand their smell. They are a pretty sight too. Perhaps give them an idea about how we can protect plants from bugs through natural methods.

5- When the plants bear flowers, explain why they must not pick them. My younger daughter Heba does not in general like leaving flowers on plants.

6- Talk about plant food and let them help you top up the beds or pots with some compost.

7- Let them touch and smell the leaves. Almost every plant has its own particular texture and fragrance.

8- When the vegetables arrive, have a garden party for your kids and their friends. String up some bunting, spread out some cupcakes, sandwiches and home-grown veg crudités and enjoy the beautiful, brief UAE winter. If your kids like, let them give their friends a guided tour of the vegetable garden. If you have plenty, let each kid take a small fresh vegetable basket home.

Happy gardening with your little ones!


  1. Shumaila..I'm sooo very glad I visited your blog..Since Dec I'm dreaming about having my lil garden ...though our balcony is micro mini, I'm still dreaming !!!! Dont know how I'm gonna do it..but still..I've asked hubster to take me to warsan for soil/plant shopping..but he's busy with the year end stuff :o
    (I'm a I'm doing my decorating bit now..painting the pots..making garden ornaments for the wall and the ceiling etc..etc.. yeah even before having a garden ...yeah I know...even my hub thinks I'm outta my mind..he...he..he..
    anyways, I'm gonna 'stalk' you..and your garden and see if I can get some tips and tricks to set up mine..Will trouble you with lotsa qs......once I get my mud :o)My friendly neighbour gave me spinach and radish seeds..(well she got me dreaming about a garden) if you need some let me know. its sitting in my cupboard for a week..waiting for soil..
    I just finished painting 4 pots today..once it dries ..gonna stencil drag my hubby to warsan for mud and plants..
    one quick q...what should I plant in winter?? any suggestions?

  2. wow its so cool to meet new people through the blog! before I even want to get into planting discussions with u, i know that i want to do a post on painting pots. I have actually been meaning to do one for a while but i m not much of a crafter myself. What do u say? Where do you live btw? Ok so for growing in winter which is the main growing season here, just trawl through the blog and you'll find lots of info- tomatoes, beans, courgettes, herbs, radish, lettuce, rocket will all grow well. Warsan is a good place to buy potting soil and veg fertiliser or manure. Make sure to skim through my post to be more informed! Let me know about doing a post on your garden decorations. I'll come and take pics and write about your techniques...

  3. Hi Shumaila,
    I also wanted to grow a small veg garden in my balcony and have started on it.
    Have planted tulsi and tomato.The leaves of tomato (i just took the seeds from ripe tomatoes and sowed it) have come up.. no i guess i need to transplant it ( got the idea after readin thru ur posts).. thanks for the info ... by when can i see the real tomatoes .. ?
    Wanted to start with growing beans also.
    If i sow the seed with we find within the beans (that we get from the supermarket) , would it grow or should i buy the beans seeds separately from the market. Can you suggest a place where i can get the seeds from ? also which are plants i can grow in feb.