Start them young
I was lucky to have had a small personal garden and junior school garden to work in from the tender age of five. I had the enthusiasm and patience of interested parents and grandparents to instil the challenge and sense of achievement of gardening in my blood, not only in growing flowers but vegetables and fruit as well.
So get the youngest members of your family going now. They will soon be proud of their efforts.
Unfortunately, not all schools have gardens and gardening clubs but worldwide they are becoming very popular with major national programmes in many countries including the UK, USA and Australia. Search the internet for the international Slow Food and UK Think Organic School programmes to get a feel for what is going on.
Some schools in Spain do have gardening clubs but mostly they lack impact as the clubs are often not given a suitable plot of land or raised bed. Their efforts are not promoted as a show-piece for the school such as the entry garden. They are not developed as a vegetable garden providing vegetables for lunch-time sandwiches or meals and the understanding of why things grow is not integrated into the curriculum.
Luckily, some parents and grandparents encourage children to have their own small garden for growing colourful and edible flowers, tasty vegetables and delicious strawberries riper and juicier than many in the shops.
The success factors include providing a fertile square metre or two of soil or three or four large containers for use as small raised beds, guidance of what plants are easiest and quickest to grow, a good set of small tools, a light- weight watering can, some ecologically safe snail pellets and a system of paying for any produce grown and used for family meals.
For young children there are many practical experiences that can help them in their understanding of early science and botany lessons at school.
The following are extracted from our books ‘Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain’ and ‘Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain’.
• Smelling things such as ripe tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, fennel, rosemary and thyme.
• Sowing seeds like mustard, cress, cut and come again salad leaves, and radishes that will come up and mature quickly.
• Seeing how quickly their own tray of sprouting seeds can germinate, grow and be ready to eat.
• Sowing and nurturing one or two sunflower seeds to two or three metre giants and then drying the seeds to eat, as bird food and drying and keeping some to use next year.
• Growing, drying and painting colourful vegetables such as Turk’s turban squash and decorative gourds.
• Preparing their own salad with their self-grown mustard and cress, lettuce leaves, tomato, radishes, chives and why not sprouting seeds?
• Making a refreshing infusion of mint, lemon verbena or a slice of lemon; or ice lollies from pureed raspberries and strawberries.
© Dick Handscombe