Organic pot plant, Backyard 2012

Organic pot plant, Backyard 2012—Lori L Stalteri (

Although the summer holidays are more than half way through, the remaining weeks still bring the age-old challenge: how to entertain our children without spending a fortune. Having tired of the local parks and museum, I wanted to fill a showery Sunday afternoon with something different. Another knotty problem was finding something that was as interesting to my 11 year daughter as for my five year old son.

Given our garden was looking rather sad – overgrown and fading flowers in our container pots, I thought we could do something to brighten the place up. The initial plan was to buy some cheap bedding plants to add some much needed colour to our pots. So with a somewhat reluctant 11 year old, an 8 year old that wanted nothing other than to grow peas from scratch, and a somewhat confused five year old we toddled off to a new local plant nursery.

As soon as we spilled out of the car, I spotted the farm shop. My spirits rose and sank in quick succession. On the one hand I love to discover new places that offer locally produced foods. It’s a big bonus if they are certified organic, but even if not, it’s still worth finding out more about the farms that grew the produce. The fruit and veg are usually far fresher than those from a supermarket, they won’t have been irradiated, they haven’t incurred a massive carbon footprint to get to the shop, and are often (but not always) cheaper than buying from larger outlets.

However, on this occasion, I had £10 (around $17) and couldn’t afford to spend a penny more. Each child was to be given £3 (approximately $5). They could spend it on whichever flowers or plants they chose. The budget did not extend to local cream teas, ice cream or locally produced honey, cakes and preserves. So determinedly marching the little guys past this first attraction, we fell into the very large greenhouse that lay opposite. The riot of colourful blooms excited even my jaded 11 year old. Once they realised they could choose their very own plants, the excitement reached new heights.

Interestingly, for this has not been my experience to date, this local nursery sold vegetable seedlings and herb plants. I chose to sit down and let the children explore the different plant varieties. Although originally attracted by the pretty flowering plants, the two older ones turned to the seedlings fairly quickly. Mulling over the possibility of growing their very own vegetables, they began to assess the value of growing food over flowers. We had discussions about growing conditions, crop yields and pest resistancy – albeit in simpler terms.

Half an hour later, we toddled off to the checkout with eight bedding plants (six antirrhinums and two geraniums), one sunflower, one courgette (zucchini) seedling, one herb plant (cat mint) and a small dwarf been plant. Delighted with their purchases, we spent a happy couple of hours repotting the flowers and finding homes for the two young vegetable plants. That was a week ago. Every day the new plants have been watered by the children, beans from the dwarf plant have been consumed and questions over the arrival of courgettes have been asked. Knowing my commitment to organic living, the children are delighted to be ‘producing’ organic food.

I’ve found the whole experience very positive. The children are enjoying taking responsibility for their plants’ wellbeing. We have spoken to our lovely neighbour Brian about reducing the slug population (who are munching on the dwarf bean plant) using organic gardening techniques. His tip, given that my dear daughter planted it in a container) is to use copper tape around the pot – the slugs won’t move over the copper. I’ll let you know how we fare.

So we have two vegetables plants at the end of the summer – I know we’re running out of seasonal time for a decent crop, but the enjoyment and interest this activity has generated in the children has been wonderful. It’s also the real start of our organic garden, something which the whole family is now interested in. Result!

Filed under: Organic Lifestyle

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