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How To: Gardening Without a Garden

Growing their own plants has some wonderful benefits for children… but not all of us have gardens! Here’s a quick and easy guide to help you and your little ones get growing indoors.

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If you saw any of our social media posts about Mental Health Awareness Week 2021, you’ll surely be very familiar with the benefits of spending time surrounded by nature - from improved feelings of wellbeing to a reduction in risk of developing a mental health disorder. On top of these amazing benefits to health, growing plants from seed is an amazing learning experience for any child. It provides them with opportunities to discover and appreciate the life cycle of plants, feel ownership and care for the natural world, and practice patience!

Now, of course, not everyone has access to a garden, but that doesn’t mean your little one has to miss out on this wonderful experience. With as little as a windowsill, your gardening dreams can come true. Here’s how:

Pick a Space

In most houses, the windowsill is the best bet… but which one? Well, plants need a LOT of light (sometimes up to 18 hours of sunlight!), so the sunnier the spot, the better. Try to take note of which windows in your house seem to let in the most sunlight (if you have a cat, it’s the one they sit by most). This will probably get you the best results.

However, if this windowsill is directly above a radiator, you may want to choose elsewhere - the drastic changes in heat throughout the day can be a little too much for your seedlings to bear!

If plants don’t get enough sunlight, they may grow spindly, be too light in colour, and fail to bloom. Remember to turn your plants regularly, to make sure they get enough sun, and if it looks like they’re struggling, you can buy special grow lights to help them along!

Pick Your Soil

Starting mixes for seeds can be great for getting your little seedlings going, but if you’re trying to keep bags of soil to a minimum, you may be tempted to reach for the ‘all-purpose compost’... don’t do it! If you want something all-purpose for growing indoors, use an indoor potting mix - even if you’ve chosen plants that aren’t typically grown indoors. This will give them the drainage they need to thrive inside.

Choose Some Pots

There are some gorgeous pots to choose from, but they need to serve a function, too! Drainage is very important for healthy plants, so either choose pots with a hole in the bottom (place them on a saucer to catch excess water), or, alternatively, plant into a plastic pot (with holes) that fits inside your pretty planter. This way, if you accidentally overwater, you can just lift the plant out and pour away the excess.

Choosing unvarnished pots can be lovely for little ones, too, as they can decorate them before planting - a perfect way to get them excited about gardening!
Find Your Seeds!

Head to the local garden centre or look online with your little one to see what they’re interested in growing. Remember to avoid anything too big - you don’t want bamboo trying to push through the rafters! Here are our recommendations for child-friendly (and, of course, non-toxic) plants to grow indoors:

  • Little Marvel Peas
Peas may be known for their creeping vines, but this semi-dwarf variety won’t get out of hand! Peas are great for growing with little ones, as they not only produce tasty veggies (a great way to get your little one to eat their greens), but they also have very pretty flowers - and you can eat the shoots!

  • Marigolds
No, not the rubber gloves! These brightly coloured blooms are sure to be a favourite with children. They sprout quickly, so are great for impatient little ones, and the delicate sprouts are great for teaching them to be careful. Remember to deadhead your flowers (remove the dying blooms) to encourage new growth and, if you store the dead flower somewhere cool and dry, you’ll be able to harvest seeds for next year - a great way to teach them about the lifecycle of flowers!

  • Basil
Another easy-to-grow, tasty treat! Basil grows quickly, so it can be fun to keep an eye out for new leaves every day. When harvesting, remember to take individual leaves, rather than cutting the stems. This will allow new leaves to grow, which can be enjoyed in a wide range of dishes. Why not try making your own pesto?

  • Lamb’s Ears
Looking for a sensory treat? Look no further than lamb’s ears! These fuzzy little leaves and tall fluffy flowers are irresistible to small hands. They require a lot of light, so make sure you pick your windowsill carefully.

  • Dwarf Sunflowers
The childhood classic! Growing a six-foot monstrosity on the windowsill might not sound like the best idea, though, so why not try a dwarf variety? Depending on which you choose, they’ll grow between one and three feet tall, but maintain those beautiful yellow flowers, sure to brighten up any room. Also, the seedlings need plenty of water, so are perfect for the little one desperate to help out with their watering can.

  • Alpine Strawberries
Strawberries indoors? Yep! This variety grows in clumps, rather than spreading everywhere, so they’re perfect for pots, and the berries are super sweet - perfect for little ones after a home-grown treat. There are few better ways of getting little ones interested in gardening than the chance to pick your own strawberries!

And there we have it!

I hope this little guide encourages you and your child to have a go at planting your own seeds at home - and why not share the results with us on Instagram? We love seeing what you get up to at home with your little ones!

Happy growing :)

Lizzie
Content Creator at MEplace
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