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Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Get Growing this Easter

I realised recently that I have been growing plants for 30 years now. Having said that, some of you may now imagine me to be a woman in her "mature" years but in fact I started seriously growing plants at the age of 12. I can't really remember what started it - maybe a friend giving me a "baby" from her spider plant - but with the aid of a good book on house plants, my bedroom very quickly started to resemble a jungle. It was a rewarding hobby, perhaps a substitute for not being allowed a pet, and something I was able to get on with without adult assistance and within the realms of my pocket money.

These days I don't deliberately grow houseplants. Not that you would be able to tell if you came to my house as every available windowsill has plants on it and I recently went out to buy vertical shelving units to make use of the big window space offered by my patio doors. All the plants, however, are edible and are either destined for the garden when the weather warms up or the result of me looking at a kitchen ingredient and wondering: what would happen if I planted that? So currently I have a turmeric plant, a lemongrass plant, root ginger, a sweet potato and a variety of citrus plant that grew from a pip my daughter stuck in a pot about eight years ago.

When growing my spider plants, propagating my begonias and sowing new seedlings I never imagined that it would led to a life-long love of growing and to me growing vast quantities of fruit and vegetables. But once you have success at growing plants it is hard to not continue with it. Even back then when edibles were not my thing, I used to enjoy making mini dessert islands by placing a carrot top on a saucer and watching the top regrow. My friend and I successfully grew avocado plants from stones given to us by her grandma and I even managed to regrow a pineapple top into a healthy houseplant, although it never did bare the mini fruit shown in my handbook.

My own children have grown up with their parents growing the household fruit and vegetables so in some ways they take it for granted and think it normal. They don't really realise that their classmates at school probably couldn't identify vegetable plants from just their leaves and whilst girls are getting hysterical about a wasp my two will calmly know it is only a hoverfly. There is, however, a wonder to teaching children how to grow plants and it is easy to get started. Try the carrot top - that really is simplicity on a plate. Potatoes that have already sprouted are good to throw into a bag of compost too. A clove of garlic will regrow happily into a whole new bulb. More challenging are the likes of pineapple tops, root ginger, monkey nuts, citrus pips and avocado but they are all possible and there is nothing to lose by giving them a go.

Kids do get some opportunities to grow a few things at school and most will experience seeing the germination of a runner bean pressed against the inside of a jam jar with a wad of damp cotton wool. They will also, undoubtedly, grow cress and experience the taste of egg and cress sandwiches. Cress is particularly easy because it is only grown to the seedling stage and then harvested so it only takes a few days and doesn't require potting on.

So with growing cress in mind, here is a lovely activity to do during the Easter holidays that will give your kids a taste of growing. Personally I think growing is fun in itself but the creation of an egg character adds to the enjoyment.

Making a Cress Egg Head

You will need

An empty and clean egg shell (plus spares!)
A toilet roll
Cotton wool
Cress seeds
Felt tipped pens
Googly eyes
Foam/paper hands and feet
Double-sided sticky tape or sticky dots or glue

1) Cut the toilet roll to make a ring shape about 3 cm tall and colour it in to make a body.

2) Stick on the foam or paper hands and feet with double-sided tape, dots or glue.

3) Gently stick the googly eyes carefully onto the eggshell (or draw them on) and draw on the rest of the face. Place the egg head onto its body (note: if your egg slips through the ring place a piece of scrunched up tissue paper in the ring for the egg to rest on).

4) Moisten the cotton wool and place it inside the egg shell then sprinkle on cress seeds.

5) Place on the windowsill and water every day until the cress is ready to eat then give your egg character a hair cut and enjoy your cress in a sandwich or salad.