mini gardeners

inspiring gardening projects for children


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Last call for sowing tomato seed

grow your own tomatoes

Summer wouldn’t be quite right without pots of tomatoes growing by our back door. Most of them get eaten on the way in and out of the door but sometimes a bowl of tomatoes makes it to the kitchen table. And we grow lots of cherry tomatoes – the perfect size for popping into a hungry mouth on the way out to play.

Our favourites are ‘Sungold’ and ‘Gardener’s Delight’ because they’re reliable, heavy cropping and scrummy to eat.

This year we’re also growing:

  • ‘100s and 1000s’ – a micro cherry tomato that we haven’t tried before
  • a plum tomato – cultivar unknown, for a bit of variety; and
  • ‘striped stuffer’ – bigger than a cherry tomato but it has the most beautiful striped skin

And then last week, the lovely people from Heinz tomato ketchup sent us some ‘San Marzano’ tomato seeds to try.

San Marzano tomato seed

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A Challenge Too Far?

onion seedlings

We’re attempting to grow onions from seed this year.

I say “we” but my daughters have ignored all my requests for help, so I’m on my own at the moment. It’s slowly dawning on me that trying to get children excited at the prospect of growing onions from seed may just be a challenge too far.

On my lonely voyage of onion-growing discovery I’ve learned that onion seed (like parsnip seed) needs to be fresh for good germination rates. My first attempt using an out of date packet of seed from the back of the cupboard wasn’t very impressive. Following the hasty purchase of  a fresh packet of seed, I’m happy to report the seedlings are now romping away.

Difficult to believe  these spindly little seedlings will grow into big, fat onion bulbs but I live in hope 🙂


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Chocolate Brownies and Exploding Flowers

gorse flowers

We managed a 4 mile walk avec les enfants today, with minimal moaning.

How did we achieve this amazing feat?

With the distractive powers of chocolate brownies (works every time) and exploding flowers.

The Devon countryside is awash with brilliant yellow gorse flowers at the moment. And we discovered that if you press gently on the lower petals with your finger, mimicking a bumble bee landing, the flower springs open permanently, exposing the reproductive parts.  If you’re lucky, you might get a spray of pollen into the bargain.  Strangely addictive, distracting and educational all at the same time.

Common gorse (Ulex europaeus) is a member of the pea family and has flowers that are not dissimilar to sweet peas.  The photograph below shows a gorse flower that is ready for ‘exploding’.

gorse flower

And this is the result:

gorse flower

The whispy bits revealed in the centre of the flower are the anthers (containing pollen), each held aloft a long stalk called the filament, which are collectively the ‘male’ parts of the flower (the stamen). Some of the flowers will throw out  a spray of pollen when opened, whoo hoo!  We did have the great idea of trying to capture the pollen spray on camera but had to adbandon this due to the risk of frostbite on our hands with the bitterly cold spring wind (sorry).

If you’re keen to explore the world of flower anatomy further, try this link.  Not the prettiest internet page ever but it has a simple, clear illustration with a good, concise description.


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Temporary Amnesia, the Rural Dream and Rurbanites

A few days in Devon and we’re suffering from temporary amnesia. We’ve forgotten that we live in the suburban sprawl that is west London and in our minds we’re totally living the rural dream.

Our thatched cottage is situated along a quaint country lane flanked by trees, with generous bunches of daffodils lining the verges. We’re keeping chickens which are free to roam and we’re dining on freshly laid eggs every day. We have a huge garden and the possibilities are endless. We even have a goat or two for good measure. And the sun always shines in our rural dream.

Oh, but hang on a minute. Could we live without a 24-hour Tesco just round the corner for those days when we’re a teeny bit disorganised? And we do quite like being a 20 minute tube journey from the centre of London for when we’re in the mood for a bit of culture or retail therapy. And to be frank, the countryside can sometimes be a little bit smelly.

But the good news is that it’s not temporary amnesia we’re suffering from. Oh no. There is a name for our condition and we’re not alone. We are officially rurbanites:

Rurbanite. n.  Someone with a passion for the countryside but a reluctance to leave the city anytime soon.

Safe in this knowledge we can indulge the rural dream for a few more days before returning home to the metropolis.