We’re back with more fun ideas to help kids learn about growing and eating healthy food.
We have to admit, we’ve learned a lot ourselves while putting together these guides with Trees for Cities, inspired by the charity’s Edible Playgrounds project. Many of us here at DP HQ are turning to plants to bring the outside in right now, and we’re looking for ways we can be more self-sufficient and avoid food and packaging waste too. There are plenty of ideas here for adults and kids alike. We hope you have fun trying some of them while staying home with your families.
Give food scraps a new life
Did you know you can grow vegetables from your kitchen scraps!? Cut the base from your lettuce head and put in a glass with the cut side facing upwards. Cover with water to just below the top of lettuce and leave on a sunny windowsill. How long will it be before the magic starts to happen and the lettuce regrows? Try the same with a leek or spring onion. Cut off the root-y end and place in a shallow glass of water.
Become a wildlife explorer from your window or when out for your daily walk. With fewer planes in the sky and vehicles on the road it’s suddenly become a lot easier to tune in to the wildlife around us. Have you noticed how many more birds you can hear when you open the windows?
Next time you go out for a walk, get the kids to look out for wildlife and make a note of anything you see or hear. Jot down a description of how they look or sound. Then, when you get home, you can use the internet to research what it was you spotted, bring them to life with drawings or create a tally of the types of creatures you’ve seen.
Get creative with flowers
Learn the art of flower pressing it is so simple and the results are beautiful. All you need is flowers, some kitchen roll and a heavy book! Pick flowers from your own garden or buy a bunch with your shopping. Use your pressed flowers to decorate just about anything or simply put inside a frame.
More is more
Did you know how simple it can be to propagate (breed) new plants from existing ones you have growing? This is a good (and free) way to grow your plant collection. One technique is to take a cutting from an existing plant and plant the cutting in its own little pot. You can do this from late spring with shrubby herbs like rosemary, thyme and sage.
It’s also possible to propagate strawberries. If you already have strawberries then you may have noticed that they start to reproduce on their own. You can cut the new plants (the runners) from the mother plant and re-plant somewhere else.
A sweet idea
Now’s the perfect time to sow sweetcorn. There are many varieties to choose from, but look out for the supersweet and tendersweet varieties. Sweetcorn is only suitable to grow if you have space in the garden or on an allotment, as it’s a large plant. It’s wind pollinated, so should be grown in a block rather than in a straight row. Sow seeds 2cm deep in a block, spacing them 30-40cm apart. The best way to enjoy your sweetcorn is straight from the plant and onto the BBQ, serve with melted butter on top.
If you don’t have much space in your garden (or no garden at all), why not try growing microgreens to make a healthy salad? Microgreens are small plants, usually with only their two seed leaves and two true leaves. Some of the most popular and easy microgreens are: basil, beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, celery, chard, chervil, coriander, lettuce, mustard, parsley, radish, rocket, spinach, and sorrel.
Firstly, you’ll need a container to grow them in. Why not reuse one of those single-use supermarket plastic trays used for packaging mushrooms and tomatoes? A take-away food container or plastic egg box would work well too. Put in a layer of compost about 2-3cm deep and sow your seeds on top. Then cover with a thin layer of compost, water and place on a windowsill. In a few weeks you’ll have seedlings ready to harvest for a fresh salad.
If you’re home-schooling, check out the Maths and Literacy lessons on the Trees for Cities website and you’ll see how seed-sowing can be a chance to practice your literacy skills (instructional language) and a planting activity can be a maths lesson (measuring and estimating).
This concept doesn’t need to be limited to what you’re doing in the garden. Why not turn cooking or tidying (!) into a lesson. Your little one probably won’t even realise.
Get some new pets…
Has the thought crossed your mind that now would be a great time to get a new pet? How about some pet worms? Having your own wormery at home is practical and fun. Practical because you can turn your food waste into amazing compost. Fun because worms are fun (kids love them). The only cost is the wormery itself and a start-up kit, which includes a bag of worms. Trees for Cities recommend ordering from Worm City who are the Edible Playgrounds team’s trusty online supplier.
For some shop-bought vegetables you can save and replant the seeds. There’s a catch though, as most supermarket varieties are unsuitable F1 hybrids, but you may find some heritage varieties which are suitable. So, what’s the difference and why does it matter?
F1 or hybrid varieties are plants that have been created by people cross-pollinating two different varieties of plant (e.g. tomatoes) in order to breed a plant with the best characteristics of its parent. The issue here is that seeds grown from F1/hybrid plants will not come true. They just will not be the same as the F1/hybrid. So, the tomato you grow from a supermarket tomato will not be the same.
Heritage vegetables are ‘open-pollinated’. These varieties hardly vary from one generation to the next and so you will get the same plant. If this sounds like a bit of a lottery to you then you’re right. However, it’s still worth having a go. We recommend trying it with tomatoes, peppers and chillies. Don’t use supermarket potatoes or garlic in your garden. With these vegetables we recommend you buy certified disease-free seed potatoes and garlic cloves.
That’s it for May, we hope you have fun trying out some of these ideas. If you missed our first instalment, you can read April’s Trees for Cities post here.
If you’ve enjoyed the ideas from Trees for Cities, we know they’d hugely appreciate your support right now to be able to continue their amazing work to improve lives by creating greener cities. Visit treesforcities.org to find out more or donate.