I’m working with innocent as a Sow & Grow UK Ambassador from February to April 2017. Follow the tag #sowandgrowUK for updates #sp
This week, the children have been on half term and since we’re always keen to take on a new challenge, we were delighted to be asked to take part in the Sow and Grow project with innocent. Together with the not-for-profit organisation Grow It Yourself (GIY), innocent and GIY have joined forces to encourage kids to grow their own food and in turn make healthier choices. As big fans of innocent smoothies, we knew that the Sow and Grow project would be great fun and just as half term began, we were delighted to receive a colourful package full of cups, seeds and soil to help us get going.
After 14 months of building work at home with diggers pretty much flattening our garden, and with hints of spring on the way, we are super keen to start thinking about our outdoor space again. Peering outside into the feeling-very-sorry-for-itself-garden, the children had already recently asked whether we could create a small space to start growing our own fruit and veg. Great idea – I thought to myself, but where do we begin?
I’ll be the first to admit that although I’m a dab hand in the kitchen, green-fingered I am not. In fact, other than collecting the odd windfall apple and growing a couple of pots of herbs on the kitchen windowsill, I’ve never had much success growing anything food related at home.
We’re super lucky to have a twice-weekly fresh food market in St Albans and we have a bi-monthly farmers’ market, so although the children are very familiar with trips to the market to pick up fresh fruit and veg, they haven’t really had much experience of growing their own produce at home. However, with three children aged 10, 7 and 2.5 we technically have three pairs of willing hands, so perhaps it’s time to start potting.
Getting outside, learning about nature and growing vegetables at home or in the classroom have been cited as the top ways for children to learn about eating healthily. Recent research has also identified that even the smallest food growing experiences can change the way kids think about healthy food. This is more than enough to convince me that having a go at growing our own is most definitely a worthwhile activity.
In a recent survey, innocent found that 89% of those over 50 remember their parents and grandparents growing fruit or veg when they were younger. The top five vegetables that the over 50’s remember their parents or grandparents growing are potatoes, carrots, runner beans, tomatoes and lettuce.
When I think of my own grandmother, I can remember that she grew lots of vegetables in her garden, such as runner beans, peas, lettuce, cabbage, potatoes, beetroot, chives and dill. She also kept chickens and so I remember the best dippy eggs, lots of soups and the freshest salads. Growing vegetables also fostered a strong sense of community because my grandmother used to swap produce and share seeds with her friends and neighbours. If she had too much of something, she’d simply swap it out or give it away and if she wanted to try growing something new, she’d have a chat with someone who was already growing it. She didn’t have an allotment, but she did make the most of the small space that she had and I remember it being ordered and neat and in the sunshine, the aromas of fresh garden herbs really shone through. In our own garden at home, we had an apple tree, a pear tree, a Victoria plum tree and a blackcurrant bush and so I often remember baking fruity bakes and crumbles with my mum incorporating as much of our garden produce as possible. Supermarket shops were always supplementary to what we could already grow ourselves and the summer gluts made for a winter full of preserves.
In the innocent survey, 92% of the over 50’s believed that people were healthier 50 years ago when more people grew their own – and this is a fact that I have to agree with. Our parents and grandparents simply weren’t exposed to so much processed or packaged food, there was less waste and I can’t help but wonder whether our modern issues of fussy eating have been caused, in part, by our lack of connection with the food they eat.
How to Start Growing Your Own
The key to growing your own at home, particularly when you’re a beginner, is to start with something simple.
- Runner beans, cress and carrot seeds are the fastest-growing seeds so that children (and nervous adults!) can see results almost straight away, so that’s what we’re going to be starting with at home.
- You don’t need a big garden or a plot or at this stage, even a raised bed. You can even start with sowing seeds in cups to watch and see how they grow.
- For more tips check out the Innocent Sow and Grow tips page here
innocent are keen to encourage as many primary school aged children as possible to start growing their own vegetables. As part of this campaign, schools can sign up to get their very own growing kit (just like ours) full of seeds, information packs, stickers, cups and lesson plans to help teachers incorporate healthy eating into their lessons with everything they need to get involved. Grow-it-Yourself will be sending out 6,666 packs to schools which will reach ¼ of the UK’s primary school children.
The children were very keen to get started and I’m very much hoping that once we’re feeling a bit more confident, that we’ll progress to creating a small space in our garden to begin growing some vegetables outdoors. We love courgettes, and I am told they are easy to grow too so they’ll be next and perhaps then we’ll move onto growing some of the vegetables and herbs that that my grandmother grew.
Home Update from my 7 year-old:
“When we got the box, we got the cups out, soil, water and the seeds that we were going to plant. I looked at the packets and I saw three things that we were going to grow. They were cress, baby carrots and runner beans. First, we wrote our names on the cups and wrote what kind of seeds were going to go into each cup – even my little brother joined in! Mummy read the instructions and we put some soil into each cup. Next, we sprinkled some cress seeds into some of the cups and watered them. Then we carefully put 15 really tiny baby carrot seeds into some soil in some of the other cups and watered the seeds. Lastly, we opened the runner bean packet and we were surprised to see that they looked much bigger and they were purple. We put one runner bean into each cup that was left then we had to push it down with our fingers into the soil and added some more soil and then watered the runner bean cups. Then we put all the cups into a big wooden box and put the box near a big window. We checked on them and watered them for a few days. After two days, we could see little bits of green in the cress cups. The next day the cress had grown even bigger! We watered them a little bit each day. It is now day four and we are still waiting for the carrots and runner beans to grow. At the weekend we are going to visit my grandma’s house so we are going to pack the cups into a box and take them with us!”
I’d love for you to follow my progress at home with the children and as an ambassador of this campaign I’ll be posting about our progress regularly both here and across all my social media channels.
Look out for the hashtag #sowandgrowUK
#ad I have been compensated for writing this post. All opinions are my own.