Gardening over summer with your kids

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By Eliza Henry-Jones

Get out in the garden with your kids over summer! Those summer holidays are stretching ahead. Lots of family gatherings, beach trips, mosquito bites, sunburn and icy pole fingers.

Summer is also prime gardening season and you might be surprised at what you can grow! You don’t need a giant backyard (although, that definitely doesn’t hurt).

Gardening has been linked to improved mental health, immunity and mood. Getting your kids involved in gardening is a great move for the entire family.

It can be daunting working out  Ask yourself (or your kids!) what do your kids love eating? Strawberries? Lettuce? Carrots? That can be a great place to start on your gardening journey.

What you can plant over summer around Melbourne:

Amaranth, Basil Beans, Beetroo, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Brussel’s Sprouts, Cabbage, Capsicum, Carrot, Chicory, Chilli, Chives, Coriander, Cucumber, Eggplant, Endive Fennel, Kohl Rabi, Leek, Lettuce, Mustard, Greens, Okra, Onion, Oregano, Parsley, Parsnip, Pumpkin, Radish, Rocket, Rockmelon, Shallot, Siverbeet, Squash, Sunflower, Swede, Sweet Corn, Tomato, Turnip, Watermelon

What you need to get gardening with your kids

Seeds or seedlings
Seeds can be purchased online through places such as The Diggers Club and Backyard Seeds. Generally, local nurseries will also have a selection.  You may prefer to start with seedlings rather than growing seeds from scratch. Seedlings can be purchased from local nurseries and local farmer’s markets.

Punnets
Some seeds require being started in punnets rather than sowing directly in the garden. For these seeds, you’ll need punnets and somewhere sunny and warm. Punnets can me made using things like toilet paper rolls, empty milk cartons and even rolled up newspaper. You can also purchase them at nurseries and hardware stores.

Good soil
Start seeds in seed raising mix. This will give you the best germination rate. Make sure beds (or pots!) have lots of well-rotted organic matter and give them a dig over to loosen up the soil and prepare the bed.

Mulch
Mulching will help keep weeds at bay and also plant beds moist and this means less need for watering. There are lots of options for mulch! Consider the “miles” involved in getting mulch to your garden. While sugar can mulch is popular, it all has to be transported down from Queensland. Straw or pea straw is also a good option. Some people will even lay newspaper or cardboard down around their plants.

Watering can/hose
A hose or watering can will help you keep those seedlings hydrated. Be careful watering seedlings when they’re very young as it’s easy to damage them with too much water pressure. For the same reason, try not to water seeds after planting until they’ve germinated – moisten soil when you plant them and then cover them so they stay moist.

Gardening gloves
Gardening gloves are a must – especially for children! Most potting mixes advise avoiding contact with bare skin and there are all sorts of creepy crawlies in the garden.

Trowel
You’ll need a trowel for preparing beds for your seedlings and even digging up weeds. Trowels are inexpensive and a very handy and versatile gardening too.

Top tips for gardening this summer

Start small. If you’re new to growing things focus on a few plants and see how you go before investing in more.

Follow growing instructions on seed packets or pot labels. If something says grow in winter, chances are it’s not going to thrive in summer

One of the most eco-friendly ways to deal with slugs and snails in the garden is to head out with torches on a wet night. Pick slugs and snails off plants and either squash them or put them in a bottle full of water with the lid on.

Did you know?

If you save the root section (and about 2cm above) of a spring onion and leave in water, the top will grow back!

Early summer is not too late to grow tomatoes! Pick up a plant from your local nursery, add lots of well-rotted manure or compost to the bed (or pot) and enjoy those delicious fruits.