Children are naturally curious. They want to get involved and try out things for themselves. My daughters helped out in the garden as soon as they could and became adept at sowing, watering and transplanting. My youngest used to love putting small plants into pots and firming the soil down “tucking them into bed” as she called it. It was natural for them because it was something we always did and I knew what I was doing. The situation for non-gardening parents must be very different and somewhat daunting.
Let’s follow through this scenario: your child comes home from school having done something fun in the school garden and says “Mum, can we grow some tomatoes? All my friends are growing them!” Grow some tomatoes? Of course we can. How hard can it be?
Researching for this blog I went to my local garden centre, a large destination on the edge of our nearest city complete with tea room, talking parrots and tropical fish centre. I put myself in the mind set of a non-gardening parent with a couple of young kids in tow. Some tomatoes and perhaps a few flower seeds to brighten the place up – easy. There were 94 separate types of tomato seed packet in that garden centre. Yes, 94! I walked up and down the rows of seed packets and counted them. A quick look at the back of the packs informs one of “indeterminate”, “cordon” or “bush” varieties. Some evidently need “staking” and “removal of side shoots”. Some packets proudly display the label “F1” – do these grow extra fast? Have they been endorsed by Lewis Hamilton? Why are some packs 99p and others £3.99? Is it a case of “you get what you pay for”? If I buy the most expensive ones will they grow and taste the best?
Sometimes too much choice is a really bad thing. Choosing flowers seems easier – just go for the ones you like the look of from the picture. However, some seeds take many months to germinate, others require very exacting conditions. Looking back to my first random purchase, I was lucky enough to choose something easy and reliable. How different things might have been if I’d gone for Begonias instead of Carnations.
But which ones should you choose, and what should you be planting at this time of year? We will investigate this next time....