Watching plants grow is a learning experience for children. Planting an herb garden with your child can help her understand where her food comes from and develop an appreciation for growing plants and gardening. Many herbs are easy to grow, making them a perfect introduction to gardening for kids. With summer here and plenty of sun, you might consider growing all you need to make your cooking sing in your own garden or backyard. Herbs don’t need much space and you don’t need to be a green-fingered wizard, either. You don’t even need a garden! In fact, you can start with a few pots on a windowsill or in a small sunny corner. When the plants are mature, you can all enjoy sampling the herbs you grew together.
The easiest herbs to grow are mustard and cress (and they go well in lunchtime egg mayonnaise or roast beef sandwiches!).
Take several empty egg cartons and fill the hollows where the eggs sat with cotton wool. Sprinkle on mustard and cress seeds and water gently. Place in a sunny spot and the seeds should germinate in about a week. Keep the cotton wool moist while the herbs are growing. Harvest with kitchen scissors when the plants are 4-5cm tall and add to egg mayonnaise, potato salad or roast beef sandwiches.
Decide whether to plant your herb garden in indoor pots, outdoor containers or directly in your garden. Start with thyme, rosemary, marjoram, basil and chives, recommends the University of Rhode Island. Plant indoors only if you have a window that provides at least six hours of sunlight every day or if you have access to a grow light.
Sit down with your child and open the seed packets or look at the seedlings. Explain to him that the seeds are the brain of the plant. Purchase rosemary and chives as seedlings for better success.
Amend your outdoor soil by working an organic fertilizer such as compost or soil mix into your garden with a trowel. Spoon potting soil into your containers, making certain the pots have drainage holes. Explain to your child that the soil amendments give your herbs the necessary nutrients.
Have your child to sprinkle the seeds directly on top of the garden soil or into containers, following the planting directions for spacing. Be generous when planting herbs from seed to allow for inevitable seed loss. Lightly cover the newly planted seeds with soil. Tell your child to mark the row with a stake or plastic spoon.
Dig a shallow hole in the soil for the purchased seedlings. Loosen the plant from its container. Give the plant to your child and help her set it into the prepared hole. Place the top of the root ball level with the top of the soil. Ask your child to push soil around the plant, packing it firmly so the seedling does not move.
Water the new plants and seeds immediately. Water outdoor plants frequently in dry weather. Ask your child to water your indoor plants with a watering can. Watch for the seeds to push a tiny green stalk and leaf through the soil and look for new growth on the seedlings.
Fertilize your plants using an organic herb fertilizer. Show your child how to thin the new plants by gently pulling out the smallest plants. Watch for insects, advises Utah State University, even though herbs usually attract fewer insects.
Use the fresh herbs in recipes you and your child make. Pinch leaves directly off the mature plants and sprinkle on salads, in sauces or casserole dishes. Involve your child by asking him to get the herbs from your herb garden before you begin cooking.