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Grow, pick and preserve




The one childhood memory that my sister and I can always agree upon is that my mother paid us two pence a pound for picking blackcurrants. Old pence you understand. There was a row of inexhaustible bushes at the bottom of the garden. My mother was not generally so generous. Did she find it too messy a job? Did she want to get us out of the house in the long summer holidays?

As a consequence I was reared on blackcurrant jam and considered it a huge indulgence when offered alternatives such as strawberry jam on visits to friends’ houses.

My sister and I each had our own gardens with some basic flowers. I do seem to remember growing some marigolds and antirrhinums but my sister would probably remember otherwise. The idea of growing herbs or vegetables never occurred to us. What a shame as herbs are such an obvious and simple start to any kitchen garden.


The school holidays are the perfect time spend outside and allow children to create and learn about gardening and growing their own food to cook and eat.

Find a good spot in the garden with good sunlight and fertile soil.  If you do not have a garden but have some out space, balcony or window sill your child can still start gardening.

Toddlers and young children will need more help but an old kitchen spoon and a tiny watering can or jug can ensure they think themselves fully involved. For the very young a  wooden garden tub is all that they might want to create their garden. If they have already identified an easy herb or vegetable which they enjoy in their meals then this is just where to start. Limit the time devoted to gardening to short stints.

Older children, depending upon their age, may have more ambitious ideas for the garden and for the school age children consider the following ideas:

*discuss what they would like to grow and how they might use it in their own cooking. eg a pizza herb garden or a salsa garden to include tomatoes, peppers, onions and garlic

*suggest they keep a journal of their gardening activities

*help  them to take photos to add to the journal or for use on Christmas or greeting cards

*encourage children, where possible, to grow herbs from seed or small plants and to cultivate in a pot for them to offer as a present to family or friends

*remind yougsters to add to an existing compost heap or start one from scratch

*for added interest, consider a bird bath near their garden and remind them of the benefits of other wildlife in a garden, the role of earthworms and insects in gardening

*encourage children to put their produce into use eg  dried herbs, salads, salsas, relishes, and for some to make into preserves such as jams or chutneys with adult help

NB If fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides are used, this is strictly an adult job during which the young must stay indoors for the duration.


Over the next few weeks I shall be posting more summer preserves activities for the holidays so if you would like an email update just complete the boxes on the right of the website home page and learn more about foraging, pick your own farms, preserves cooking and safety in the kitchen, preserves favourites and  making their own labels.


Over the summer in the UK, the RHS are holding various garden events at their different venues including Mad Hatter Tea parties and Adventures in Wonderland.

The Scone Palace in Scotland are offering a Kids Garden Club on Thursdays for 9 – 12 year old.

If you know of other gardening events for children elsewhere in the UK or world, please reply by adding them to the comments box below and they will be included in this post.

Have a great summer


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