Back to Basics – Gardening With Kate’s Kids!

I received an emergency tweet last week from a very good friend asking for some basic gardening advice to get her and her children going with growing. Bonus Boy and I have risen to the challenge, he is SO excited about teaching ‘the children in Ireland’ how to do what we love doing together!

Over the next few weeks we are going to  be posting detailed instructions to get Kate and her family growing with confidence. We cannot guarantee success, plants can be fickle things, but we’re going to have a very good go! I’ll post a weekly bulletin here which Kate and her lovely children will hopefully follow to the letter and we should end up with some lovely flowers and one or two things to eat by the end of the summer! It would be lovely if some more families wanted to join in.

We went shopping and we bought five packets of child friendly, easy grow seeds, divided them in half kept one half ourselves and posted the rest to Ireland. Kate asked for plants which would grow well in hanging baskets as well as in pots and in the ground.

We are growing:

Tomatoes: Tumbling Tom Red – these are brilliant planted in hanging baskets and I have a little trick up my sleeve to make them even more exciting for children!

Sunflowers: Little Leo – a dwarf sunflower which is perfect in tubs and in borders

Sweet Peas: Dwarf Explorer Mixed – a low growing sweet pea which doesn’t need staking and lots of work, again they work well in pots or directly into borders

Nasturtium: Jewel Mixed – these grow anywhere (Kate, you pronounce it Nass – tur – shum :-) ) My Mum calls them Nasty Urchins because they can take over a bit but I like their wildness and they only last for the summer with their bright happy faces and then they are gone!

Runner Beans: Scarlet Emperor – I always grow runner beans, even if I forget everything else! They are brilliant to grow with children because you can almost see them growing every day. They are fast, huge and delicious. We always let a few pods dry out and harvest the beans to grow again the next year; brilliant for showing children the full cycle of life!

All our seeds are from Mr Fothergill’s which are widely available and easy to get hold of.

Four days ago we planted the nasturtiums, tomatoes and sunflowers.

Kate, this week you will need:

seed pots or trays, peat free multi purpose compost, a watering can, a tray without holes in to put your pots in (garden centres sell these), a misting spray, plant labels.

Week One: Planting Nasturtiums, Tomatoes and Sunflowers

1. Fill your seed pots with compost and lightly firm down. We put another empty seed pot on top and press down lightly.

2. Pop your seeds on top of the compost. Have a different tray for each plant type. (you don’t have to put the packets on Kate, you’ll need to take the seeds out or they won’t grow 😉 I put them there for photographic effect! If you look at the compost you can see the little black sunflower seeds he has popped on the surface!)

3. Poke and Pinch. This is Bonus Boy’s planting mantra, poke the seed in and pinch the soil over the top. The nasturtiums and sunflowers need to be poked in to about 1½cm deep and the tomatoes about ½ cm but we aren’t very careful about this! As long as they are not pushed right to the bottom and don’t remain on the surface they’ll be fine.

4. Label them – do this now or you will forget!

5. Pop your seed tray or pots into a water filled tray and allow them to soak up the water. This gets the compost nice and moist without washing the seeds away.

6. Put them on a sunny windowsill (you can cover them with a clear plastic lid or a clear plastic bag supported by kebab sticks if you want, this will speed the growing up a bit but is not necessary. If you do cover them, take the cover off as soon as the first seedlings appear) Make sure you have drip trays underneath so you don’t spoil your sills!

7. Mist the compost every day to keep it moist but not waterlogged.

8. Our seedlings should appear in about 7 – 14 days.

Children can get very frustrated waiting for seedlings to appear so it’s a good idea to plant some cress seeds which appear almost overnight to keep them interested.

You can also set them to making newspaper plant pots for next week’s runner bean and sweet pea planting!

If you’ve got any questions about gardening with children or getting going with growing pop them in a comment and I will do my best to answer them! If you’d like to join in with our challenge I would be delighted, let me know how you’re getting on and if you blog about it I’ll pop over for a look!




  1. I love this and we will be following too. Although I already garden with the children and our seedlings are starting to germinate, it is good to grow new things. So I am going to try nasturtiums. Regarding the sweet peas that you suggest we grow ours up our fence so it is six foot, would these cover it?

    • No Jen, these are dwarf sweet peas and only grow about 60cm high. I am growing the others as well though, this year I’ve chosen Old Fashioned Mix which grow to 6ft and smell divine. For Kate and her children I am going to give detailed instructions for the 5 things I have written about today but also pop in extra suggestions for others they can try – the tall growing sweet pea is one of those as I know Kate loves them!

  2. We will definately be following this, sounds like huge fun. Am already an avid gardener of flowers and sweet peas are my absolute favourites but have never grown any veggies so any tips will gratefully received!
    Just curious, I used to grow masses of nasturtiums but am a bit hesitant as they seem to attract white butterflies that caused caterpillars that ate everything in my back garden?

    • It is a bit hit and miss with the cabbage whites! Sometimes they decimate the garden and sometimes I get away with it. It’s probably not a good idea to encourage them in with tasty nasturtiums if you are growing brassicas (cabbage, broccoli etc) although I am – I err on the philosophical ‘oh let’s give it a go and see’ side!

  3. This looks great, although we’re in the wrong hemisphere to be able to follow along with you. I might pop back in six months and try to pick it up then.

    • You’ll be well prepared! As it is Autumn where you are I would be planting spring bulbs, sowing lettuce, rocket and spinach as well as pansies and sweet peas :-)

  4. So exciting!! Fabulously detailed first post (and DUH to your taking the seeds out of the packet first comment!)

    Off to garden centre tomorrow then :)

    Will link up this post to mine so everyone can find it. x

    • Hoorah! I can’t tell you how excited Bonus Boy and I are! There are bound to be ups and downs but what fun! Sorry about the assumption that you are totally dense, I know you’re not but best to make sure! ;-D

  5. I’m desperate to grow some really big sunflowers. Is there a particular variety you’d recommend? We’ve had bad luck with these; the one year we got a tall one, I was careless where I planted it and it got snapped off by our automatic awning!

    • Growing giant sunflowers is fab when it goes right but SO disappointing when it doesn’t! My tip would be to plant more than you need so you can replace any which get damaged, protect them from slugs while they are getting going and make sure you give them the support they need as they grow. As for varieties, Colossus is a good doer as is Russian Giant. We’ll be planting Colossus and hoping that this year we are successful!

  6. A life saver! Not only have I just taken on quite a big garden so I’ll be planting things in beds rather than pots for the first time, I’ve foolishly offered to help my son’s nursery in their garden too (another case of enthusiasm before expertise!)First challenge …. building a composting area ideal for little ones. Any ideas?

    • Oh how fab! Moving on from pots is so liberating! For the little ones you have to get a wormery! Wiggly Wigglers are fab for all things composty. They sell wormeries and all the gubbins with full instructions. If you want a bog standard compost bin most councils sell them at a special rate or you can invest in one of the more attractive wooden ones (they have them at Wiggly Wigglers). Wormeries are fabulous with kids because you can really see how compost is made! Good luck and do keep asking questions!

  7. How fabulous, love that this is a collaborative project. Good work you two!

    • Thank you! It’s a lovely way to blog, I am ridiculously pleased about it!

  8. This is lovely. Something so utterly wholesome about the whole thing, very family orientated and good clean fun. Brilliant idea x

    • Thank you! So lovely to see you here, it’s been ages! I am so excited about this project, I really hope lots of people quietly join in!

  9. This is massively helpful, thank you. Only yesterday I wrote a post about how appallingly ungreenfingered I am. We’re starting off slowly with just three pots on our window sill as we don’t have a garden. Will be following your gardening series very closely.

    • Hurrah! I hope it continues to be helpful, I started with window pots too!



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