Whether you’re blessed with ‘green fingers’ or you’ve never grown a plant in your life, gardening with your children is a great way to spend quality time together – and at the same time spark their interest in science and the natural world.

Kids learn all sorts of important things when they discover the joys of growing their own flowers, herbs and veggies. For example, they find out how to follow instructions, how to wait patiently for results, and how to take responsibility for caring for their little plants.

Most rewarding of all, they learn how exciting it is to reap the rewards of their hard work when they pick the first colourful flowers or bite into a juicy, home-grown tomato or a tender baby carrot.  By teaching your kids how to grow edible plants, you’ll help turn them into self-reliant, resourceful adults who appreciate good food and sustainable living habits.

You don’t necessarily need a garden to show your kids the wonders of growing plants – a balcony or a sunny kitchen windowsill will do just as well!

Here are our top tips for encouraging your little ones to run outside and get their hands dirty.

Growing plants from seed

Seeds are particularly rewarding for kids, because it’s such fun to watch them germinate and then stretch their ‘arms’ up towards the light as the first leaves develop.

NutriDay yoghurt tubs are ideal for growing seeds, and this is a great way of recycling plastic containers and giving them a second life. Use tubs from a six- or eight-pack for planting the seeds and then, as the plants sprout and mature, move them to the bigger 600g or 1Kg tubs. Some tips:

  • Be sure to cut a few holes in the bottom of your yoghurt tubs so the soil can drain easily.
  • Ask your local nursery for a bag of fine potting soil for filling the tubs.
  • Refer to the backs of the seed packets for instructions on how and when to sow the seeds.
  • Make sure the kids keep the soil damp at all times while the seeds are germinating. For more advice about growing plants from seed, click here.
  • Seeds which sprout quickly and that appeal to children include dried beans of all types, radishes, sunflowers, nasturtiums, marigolds, zinnias, cosmos, alfalfa, coriander and rocket. You’ll find these at your local garden centre.
  • An alternative to shop-bought seeds is to use dried beans from your grocery cupboard, or save the seeds from fresh pumpkins, tomatoes and chillies (be sure to let them dry out for a few weeks before you plant them).
  • Try growing beans in a glass jar lined with kitchen paper or cottonwool balls – the kids will love watching the beans germinate and then ‘explode’ into tall plants! Full instructions here.

Growing seedlings

  • If your kids are too young to wait patiently for seeds to sprout, buy a few trays of vegetable seedlings from your local nursery, and show the kids how to transplant them into recycled NutriDay plastic tubs.
  • Make sure the seedlings are put in a sunny place, and that they are watered often. When the seedlings grow too big for their pots, plant them out in the garden, or move them into bigger pots.
  • Seedlings that fairly quickly produce edible leaves (or fruit) include tomatoes, spinach, radishes, chillies, rocket, lettuce and baby carrots.

Re-grow vegetables

You might remember your Mom putting an avocado pip on toothpicks and balancing it over a jar of water in the hope that it would grown into a new tree.  But do you know there are many already-harvested vegetables that – when placed in water – will grow again and reward you with new leaves or whole new plants? Don’t throw away those kitchen scraps – the kids will love seeing how they renew themselves. Click on the links below for instructions on how to re-grow trimmings, bulbs and roots:

Are you growing any plants in your garden or on a windowsill?  Leave a comment below, or post a picture on our Facebook wall.