I’m working with innocent as a Sow & Grow UK Ambassador from February to April 2017. Follow the tag #sowandgrowUK for updates #sp
Over the past few months, we’ve been taking part in the innocent and Grow-It-Yourself (GIY) Sow and Grow project at home, in tandem with lots of children doing the same in ¼ of UK primary schools up and down the country. Even the smallest (or simplest) food growing experiences can change the way children think about healthy food. By learning how to grow food themselves (as we have been doing from seed) children are “much more likely to eat fruit and veg, and to continue eating healthily for the rest of their lives.”
Even though as a family, we eat plenty of fruit and veg and the children enjoy coming shopping for food whether at the supermarket or local market, we were hugely keen to gain a better understanding of how to grow from seed, because we hoped that it would encourage us to perhaps find a space in the garden to continue growing our own at home. Often, knowing where to start is the hard part and this project has definitely helped us all to ‘grow’ in confidence.
As part of this project, we planted cress, baby carrots and green beans in small ‘sow and grow’ cups and day by day we watered them and watched them grow.
You can read all about how we started and about the progress we made here:
- Grow Your Own Food – Getting Started
- Seed Sowing – a Growing Update with Sow and Grow UK
- An Update and a Visit to Innocent Fruit Towers
Growing from seed has allowed the children to track growth and progress right from beginning of the food cycle and this has definitely encouraged them to make the connection between growing food and eating it. There have definitely been high levels of anticipation and lots of questions asked – such as “how do beans grow?” to “when they will start appearing?” to “how many carrots will we have?” and much more.
Growing cress from seed really captured the children’s attention early on in this project. The cress was very simple to grow and the results were almost instantaneous as the seeds germinated within a day or two. At home, the children now love going up to their cress pots to pick cress to sprinkle over their salads and sandwiches.
As cress grows so quickly, it’s easy to keep on top of having a nice freshly supply by planning a few seeds in a pot each week rather than growing too much all at the same time.
We’re now four months on from when we planted the beans and as we tipped into April, our bean plants (which we supported with a training cone and bamboo sticks along the way) tipped the 6ft mark. We learnt that this variety of bean is called a pole bean or a climbing vine bean and that you can also plant bush beans, which grow closer to the ground.
The most frequently asked question has definitely been from our toddler, who is nearly three who keeps on asking, “Any giants yet?” as he’s convinced the bean plants will soon grow as high as the sky! This week, we’ve noticed a very small, red bud, and some white buds, which we think will be our first flowers, from which the bean pods will grow. We’ve learnt that we have passed the growing stages, and that we’re now at the reproduction and pollination stage.
Since there could still be a little bit of frost, we’ve allowed our green beans to go outside for some fresh air (this is a process called hardening off) which gets them used to being outside. However, in the main, we’ve kept them indoors and bean plants can be very sensitive to frost.
We noticed that some of the leaves at the bottom of the plant started to turn a bit yellow, which may have indicated that the beans needed some more nutrients. So, we added some fresh compost to the big pot that they are now in and we’ve also started to spray the leaves directly with some water. They seem much brighter again now! We’re looking forward to harvesting our beans in a few weeks’ time. Look how tall they have grown!!!
The advice in our bright and colourful innocent Sow and Grow resource pack was to ‘thin out’ the baby carrots to make sure that they had enough room to grow in the cups. We did this, but still seemed to have plenty of seedlings left. Along with the beans, the baby carrots have had some time outside on warmer days, to allow them to get used to the conditions outside. Last week, we noticed that the carrots were getting thirstier (as the soil was quite dry again quite quickly) so we decided it would be the right time to start planting the baby carrots out.
So, this week, we popped to the garden centre and came back with a raised planter and an extra bag of compost. The children spotted some tomatoes and baby leeks and asked whether we could plant those next to the baby carrots. I also took the opportunity to buy some baby beetroot seedlings and I’ve added to my herb collection with some marjoram and dill.
Planting out the baby carrots was quite easy. We picked a sunny spot, filled the raised bed with fresh soil and made some holes around ¼ inch deep. Then we simply tipped the Sow and Grow cups upside down, into our hands, and then carefully put the carrot roots into the soil, patting it down around the edges.
We’ve read that: “When plants are transplanted growth will usually be set back by 1 – 2 weeks as the roots establish themselves after which they will quickly catch up.” At the garden centre, we were also advised to grow some marigolds alongside the carrots as ‘companion planters’ because marigolds help to keep ants away – so we’ve tried this and hope some pretty flowers will grow too!
Edward age 10, says:
“It’s been really fun watching our pots of seeds grow. I think the carrots tops are starting to smell carroty! At the garden centre, I also found some leeks which we planted at home because we love leek and potato soup and it would be fun to pop out to the garden for our very own leeks!”
Elena age 7, says:
“The cress was the quickest to grow and we enjoying seeing the little seedlings grow. The baby carrots have been quite slow, but I can see that the carrots tops are growing stronger each day and it has been my job to keep them watered. The green beans, which are ginormous, have been the most exciting to watch and they are now even taller than me!”
Matthew planted a sunflower seed at nursery before the Easter holidays and was able to bring this home. As well as helping to water the beans and carrots, he’s enjoyed watching his sunflower get a bit bigger each day. It is now in a pot next to the baby carrots. We told Matthew that he was very good at growing and that he must have green-fingers. Now he keeps looking at his hands to see whether his fingers have turned green!
We’ve had such an adventure with this project (it has been lovely to get out into the spring sunshine) and we are now super inspired to carry on with our sowing and growing. We hope you’ve enjoyed following our updates on the #SowandGrowUK hashtag and that you’ll keep up with our adventures to see what happens at harvest time!
Is your school signed up? If so then upload your photos at https://innocentsowandgrow.com/ to be in with the chance to win monthly prizes from innocent and see your classroom crowned as Sow & Grow champions! Following the repackage of innocent kids drinks, consumers can also win seed packs by following the instructions on pack. Available nationwide now in most major supermarkets. Good luck!
#ad I have been compensated for writing this post. All opinions are my own.