Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Gardening with Children

My kids love gardening, it is something that they are born with.  I don't know if it is just fun to get dirty, or if digging holes makes it fun or if they just enjoy being outside, but whatever it is they have always loved it.

My kids have helped me plant seeds, tubers, rhizomes etc, water plants, harvest vegetables, save seeds and all other parts of gardening since before they knew it.  They know where their food comes from and understand the work that goes into producing food.  I am coming to the realisation that they have a better idea of food and growing vegetables than many adults, they certainly seem to be more capable at seed saving than a lot of people I know.

I tend to get a bit caught up in growing food plants and often forget that I should make gardening a bit more fun for the kids.  The kids certainly enjoy growing/eating things like strawberries or yacon, but sometimes they want a bit more fun so we have a few more novel plants for them to grow with me.  Many of these are still edible or useful, but they are fun for the kids too.

Rampion (Campanula rapunculus)

Who hasn't heard of the fairy tale called Rapunzel?  My kids haven't, but that is beside the point.  Rampion is the vegetable that the mother stole from the witch's garden and caused all the trouble.  Apparently Rapunzel is another name for the vegetable Rampion.
Rampion beginning to flower
Rampion is a very ancient vegetable, the leaves and roots are eaten.  I have eaten some leaves and to be honest probably wouldn't sneak into anyone's garden for it, let alone the garden of a grudge harboring witch.  The roots are meant to be delicious but I have not eaten any yet as I only have a few plants.  Some of the rampion has started to flower, the flowers are beautiful but are difficult to take pictures as most of the plants are hidden among other plants.
Rampion growing in a tiny pot
Rampion seed is tiny, so tiny that when I bought seed I could hardly see it and wondered if I had actually been sold anything other than dust.  The seed seems to have a reasonably low germination rate, but that may be my climate or the way in which I have tried to grow it.  It seems to have a lot of seed so having low germination is not that big a problem.

Rampion tends to do better if it is not transplanted, for this reason I am letting my plants go to seed and hope to sprinkle the flower heads where I would like the plants to grow.  The flowers on rampion are beautiful.  It ends up with a handful of long spikes of little blue flowers on each plant.  It would easily look good in an ornamental garden or a little girl's fairy garden.

I should write another post on rampion some day.  Unfortunately I do not really have any pictures as it is mostly growing in amongst other plants and can not be seen.

World's hottest chilli

The kids tried some chilli a few months ago and thought that it would be fun to grow some.  I figured it would be fun to grow something that they could not get in the shops so I bought some Trinidad Scorpion Butch T (Capsicum chinese) seed and planted it with them.  These were the world's hottest chilli a few years ago (apparently some hybrid has recently surpassed them) so I figured it would be great.

We then surrounded the tiny seedlings with crushed egg shell to help protect against slugs and snails.  So far they are tiny but I have high hopes as they are growing new leaves.  I plan to keep them in pots so that when winter comes we can try to protect them and hopefully get a second year out of them.

Trinidad Scorpion Butch T seedlings starting to grow

Immali Corn (Zea Mays)

I am breeding this variety myself and know of no one else that has created anything even remotely similar.  I have been working on this for a few years now and it is almost a stable variety.  I am now working on intensifying the colour and making this variety a bit more stable.

Immali corn is completely non GM and has been bred using nature to do much of the work.  If all goes well the Immali corn will produce a blue and white bicoloured cob of super sweet corn.  Being blue means that Immali Corn is high in anthocyanins and other cancer fighting antioxidants. 

Immali corn seedlings
I don't like starting corn and transplanting it, but this year I had little choice for a number of reasons.  I prefer to plant the seeds where they are to grow.  The seedlings were planted out the day I took the above picture and are now almost a foot tall.

I have high hopes for this corn and hope that once it is a stable variety I can distribute it for people to enjoy.  Perhaps distributing it before it is stable as a diverse landrace would be good too, we will see what happens. 

Venus fly traps (Dionaea muscipula)

Venus fly traps are the most well known of all the carnivorous plants.  They are fun, other than that they are pretty useless.  I had them when I was a child and loved them.  I started with one and ended up dividing it and multiplying it into a couple of dozen.  I don't know if they can grow here as the humidity is so low and it gets so hot, but it is worth a try.  I kind of miss growing carnivorous plants, perhaps I will get back into it properly after we move.

Venus Fly Traps - notice the bee stealing water from the lower pot
We now have three venus fly traps for the kids, or are they for me and I am just using the kids as an excuse?  Either way it doesn't really matter.  They do not catch many insects so are not useful for insect control.  A venus flytrap may have up to a dozen leaves and each leaf will only hold one insect at a time, so that is only a dozen insects per plant.  Something like a Drosera or a Sarracenia can catch many more insects.  A large pitcher plant can hold several hundred insects per leaf, a large sundew can catch a few dozen.  These can be used to successfully control some types of insect in some situations, unfortunately venus fly traps can not.  Even though the venus flytraps are virtually useless they can be a lot of fun.

People often comment that venus fly traps do not flower, that is absolute garbage spread by people who desperately want to appear intelligent and knowledgeable.  What they probably mean is that the traps are made of leaf and not made of flower.  This is kind of obvious, even children know this by looking at them.  I can not think of any carnivorous plant that traps food with their flowers.  Not one.  Some plants will kill insects in their flowers, but I don't know of any that obtain any nutrients in that way.

Other people insist that the flowers must be removed from venus fly traps or they will weaken and die.  When I was a kid mine flowered most years and it never harmed them.  Quite often after flowering they would divide into several new plants.  I often collected their seed and grew it into more plants, each one genetically different from the rest.  Growing venus fly traps from seed is heaps of fun, if you ever get a chance I say give it a go.

If they can grow here in this arid climate I don't think flowering or not flowering will have any noticeable effect on their health. The plants have already divided and have several distinct growing points.

Venus Fly Trap flowers


Nanuq has a little dinosaur garden, in it he has planted some flowers and herbs.  Strong growing herbs such as mint are great for kids.  Interesting looking herbs and odd smelling herbs seem to be enjoyed by kids.  Things which are sweet such as stevia are adored by kids.

Here are some pictures of the herbs that Nanuq has planted in his little dinosaur garden.  He has a lot of other plants in there too, some are ornamental and others like the tree onions are edible.
Chocolate mint
Variegated apple mint in with some variegated thyme

Stevia - very sweet

1 comment:

  1. I had a chili plant in Canberra that survived three winters by having it against a brick wall that got afternoon sun and keeping it sheltered. It was a great plant, shame I had to get rid of it when we moved. :-)