You know something that I never thought would interest me? Gardening and growing my own vegetables. As a kid, I remember my folks had a veggie patch – eating peas straight from the pod is a vivid childhood memory – and my Grandma still spends the vast majority of her time in the garden despite approaching 85. That’s her choice, by the way – it’s not like she’s lost her house keys.
For me, gardening just didn’t have any appeal. But then, I moved from the city to the countryside and somehow aged 40 years in the last five. Living in a small, third-floor flat in North London obviously didn’t help, so when we bought a house with a garden, I felt like I should give the whole ‘getting in bed with Mother Nature’ thing a go. After all, I couldn’t truly call myself ‘a country gent’ until I made something spout out of the ground.
So, in an epic battle of man vs environment, that’s exactly what I did. Over the past few years, I’ve grown peas, carrots, potatoes and a hell of a lot of weeds. Sure, it may have been more luck than judgement, but the end result was various vegetables which we were able to eat. Fresh. Tasty. ‘Free’. Self sustaining. A country gent.
However, getting our garden landscaped in spring last year put an end to any grow my own veg plans. Not only did I miss the seed planting window due to the building work, but the veg patch which I had was removed. As such, my plan for 2017 was to reignite my green-fingered enterprise once more. This time though, I would have help in the shape of a small toddler.
As Toddler L is that bit older now, I hoped to get her involved in garden stuff. She enjoyed ‘helping’ me water the plants with her watering can last year, so I wanted to take that a step further this. By the time she’s five, my plan’s that she’ll be doing more garden chores – mowing the lawn, removing the weeds and staining the decking. Muwhahahaha.
With that in mind, it was awesome timing when smoothie and juice aficionados innocent asked me to join in with their Sow and Grow campaign (#SowAndGrowUK). In partnership with a not-for-profit organisation GIY (Grow It Yourself) and running from February to May 2017, the campaign aims to encourage kids to grow their own fruit and veg so that they better understand where their food comes from. Sounds good, eh?
By growing it themselves, kids are more likely to eat – and enjoy – the food, know more about nutrition and continue healthy eating habits throughout their lives. As well as the cheap labour and something different for us to do, this is part of the reason why I wanted to get Toddler L into the garden. I can see nothing but good coming from the fact that she’ll be taught that a seed can turn into a vegetable which can then be eaten. To quote The Lion King, “It’s the circle of life…”
Obviously you can get involved with your kids at home by simply getting into the garden. However, innocent and GIY are taking this campaign directly to schools up and down the country. Teachers can apply for a free growing pack online, which will be sent to 6,666 – which equates to a quarter – of UK primary schools. Each kit contains enough material for a class of 32 and consists of three packs of seeds (runner beans, cress and carrots), 32 growing cups, soil and a resource booklet containing advice and tips.
For being involved in #SowAndGrowUK, Toddler L and I were sent one of these growing packs so that we could get our Alan Titchmarsh on. I’ll admit, it was pretty weird to open a box and find a bag of soil – I half expected to be visited by The National Counter Terrorism Security Office and questioned as to why I was receiving fertiliser in bulk and what I was planning on doing with it. Luckily, that knock on the door hasn’t come yet.
So, one cold, but sunny, February morning, we decided to get all green-fingered – for clarity, that’s the gardening variety, not finger paints. With the enthusiasm of Mr Bloom – just without the dodgy hat, although I did have on a checkered shirt – we got to it. Armed with the seeds, soil, pots and booklets, we planted all three seed varieties within the various pots. We didn’t do all 32 pots – we stuck with a more manageable two pots per vegetable, mainly because we don’t need that much veg and don’t have endless windowsills!
It was a fun activity to do. We spent a good hour or so following the instructions in the booklet that came with the pack. It didn’t take long for her to get what we were doing, and after showing her the first time, she was skilfully – but messily – transferring the soil to the pots before dropping in the seeds. In a weird stroke of fortune, she even had the right tools to help her as my bro had bought her a proper gardening set for Christmas.
At the time of writing, our little seeds have been planted for a few hours – as of yet, nothing has grown. I know, because Toddler L keeps checking every few minutes! I’m hoping that we’ll have runner beans, cress and carrots, but for all I know, we could have ‘silver bells, and cockle shells, and pretty maids all in a row’. Either way, it’ll be interesting to see what sprouts.
I’ll be back in a few weeks with an update on our sowing and growing escapades – hopefully the update will be more than “the soil is still in the pot”…
Until then, why not get out in the garden with your little one(s) and sign up for a free growing kit like the one we got? Throughout the campaign, teachers and kids can share photos of their progress at https://innocentsowandgrow.com to be in with the chance of winning monthly prizes from innocent and see their classroom crowned as Sow & Grow champions.
Who wouldn’t want that accolade to stick on the CV?!
N.B. This is a collaborative post written with innocent as part of being a #SowAndGrowUK ambassador.