Gardening is a perfect way of learning more about nature, whilst having some great fun getting mucky along the way. Kids love digging in the soil, spotting creepy crawlies and creating puddles with the watering can. What’s more, growing something that grubby little fingers are actually allowed to pick – like lovely smelling herbs, delicious, sweet vegetables, crisp salad and magical edible flowers – is even more fun!
You don’t need to have a huge garden to be able to create your own magical Peter Rabbit-inspired vegetable patch. Here’s some inspiration from the Lake District for you.
Plan your Veggie Plot
Before you even start to get hands muddy, grab your craft box and get drawing. Make a vegetable garden plan on a large piece of paper, maybe the back of some wrapping paper or unused wallpaper, or you could use chalks to draw it out on a path. A collage works well too, cutting out your garden design including paths, any ponds, patios and sheds, and you can use string to mark out your new veg garden. Head to Pinterest to look for some inspiration for planning your vegetable garden. Here you can find lovely plans of the Lake District’s most-famous veg pot – Mr McGregor’s vegetable garden, as well as, other Peter Rabbit inspired veg gardens. We wonder what you will grow?
What to Grow
When planning what to grow when creating a vegetable garden with kids, choose seeds that are quick to sprout to keep little imaginations excited about the project. Their faces will fill with joy when they see the first signs of life from all of their hard work. Also, choose something that you can cook with and that they will enjoy picking and eating and you’ll have some budding gardeners before you know it! Going with their enthusiasm and getting the kids involved in picking their own seeds is also part of the fun.
TOP TIP: Cress and salad seeds are perfect for green-fingered beginners. Then move on to herbs and vegetables, like tomatoes, mint and basil.
TOP TIP: For mini-artists, plant sunflowers because you can have lots of fun drawing the different stages of a seed growing. You’ll have Van Gough-esque sunflower blooms in less than 100 days! Plus, sunflowers need very little looking after and as they grow to tower over children they really get imaginations growing too.
Your family veg patch would not be complete without a new addition to the family – a funny-looking scarecrow. The funnier the better! To make a Peter Rabbit Scarecrow you’ll just need an old coat (preferably blue) and a pair of old shoes. Use sticks to make the main skeleton cross, securing it with garden wire or string. Hang your pair of shoes on some string and dangle around your scarecrows ‘neck’. Finish off by popping the lovely blue coat over the ‘arms’ & stand your scarecrow in your veg plot or in a painted plant pot. Don’t forget to give your scarecrow a name – he/she is a very important part of the family now. Not only will your scarecrow stop birds eating your seeds and vegetables but they will also become a wonderful ‘bug hotel’ as they are the perfect place for garden bugs to hideout.
Vegetable Patch Sign
For the finishing touch, give your vegetable patch a name and make your very own garden signpost. Again, Pinterest is a great place for ideas here. You can use a family name, or we like the idea of taking inspiration from Lake District adventure stories, like ‘Octopus Lagoon’ Hideout and ‘Wild Cat Island’ from Swallows and Amazons. Or perhaps you’ll take inspiration from stories like ‘The Secret Garden’ and ‘Peter Rabbit: The Runaway’, which both have brand new film release dates of August 2020 and we can’t wait!
Don’t forget to look after your veg garden regularly; watering when the sun is down and making sure weeds and slugs are kept at bay! Make your own water sprinkler from a plastic bottle, punctured with holes and secured on the end of your garden hose. Glue the lid of a used plastic milk bottle on and puncture holes in to make your very own mini-gardener watering can.
No Garden? No Problem!
Even if you don’t have a garden, you can still plant your own vegetables with the kids. Indoors, use window sills and any spots with plenty of sunlight to grow your own seeds. A super-easy indoor gardening project to start with is turning yoghurt pots into fun cress heads – what funny hairstyles can you create? Carrots, surprisingly, can also be grown successfully indoors as can tomatoes – just as long as you have plenty of sunlight. Have a go at growing an Aloe Vera plant and teach children that plants can be used for medicine as well as helping keep their air clean. Lovely smelling herbs are another great alternative and recycled tin cans wrapped in some lovely bright coloured paper look just great lined up on a windowsill. Have you ever left onions too long in a cupboard and they have started to sprout? These are another great veg to grow indoors; salad and spring onions are a particularly great choice. In fact, there’s lots of veg that normally gets discarded when cooking, which can be grown indoors; like the base of a celery, which will re-grow when soaked in fresh water daily. There’s endless magic and wonderment to be had!
Grow Potatoes in Buckets
Potatoes have to be one of the most surprising vegetables to grow and also the easiest. Plus, they can be grown in old containers or even old sacks or bags. Kids will love playing ‘hide and seek’ with the leafy shoots that appear over the top of the soil a few weeks after burying a seed potato. The foliage needs to be covered with soil ready to spot them pushing through again. Then from one single potato in only 2 months, dig your hands into the soil of your potato container and pull out handfuls of treasure. The joy of finding your soil filled with lots of potatoes grown from one single potato never ends.
Don’t forget, not only are potatoes really good for making delicious cheesy mash, but they are super for making painting prints too. Carve a simple design, like a star or a tree, and dip in acrylic paint to make your own card or wrapping paper designs. The Royal Academy: how to bring with fruit and vegetables is packed with great ideas for printing with vegetables, including rolling with corn on the cob and carved carrot rollers – so cute and lots of fun!