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!