Planting out seedlings, as long as they’re relatively robust, is something that even young children can get involved in. At two years old GarlicBoy already loves raking the soil smooth and watering it with his little watering can before using a dibbler to make holes and gently lower the seedlings inside and coving them with soil. That’s not to say it always goes smoothly, when we planted out the beetroot seedlings he took a dislike to one of them (hard to say why) and decided to bury rather than transplant it. “Here you go!” he trilled happily as he vigourously used the dibbler to mash it deep into the hole it had been planted into. But he’s always really interested in the process and it’s a great way to get little children familiar with different parts of plants. Beetroots are particularly good for this if you have a rainbow selection of plants because the roots of each plug will be a slightly different colour. So here, without further ado, is a “how to” guide to doing some easy and cheating gardening with children. I’ve based this one around beetroots in particular so please do read the planting directions for your own particular plant
You will need:
- A raised bed / section of earth / large deep pot
- Seedlings (we used 24 rainbow mix beetroot seedling plugs that I cheated and bought rather than growing from seed)
- A dibbler, or something to make holes in the earth
- A watering can with a fine nozzle, or a hose with the same
- Gardening gloves
- A small rake
- [BOTH] Lightly water the seedlings a few hours before planting. You don’t want them so sodden the surrounding earth falls off but they shouldn’t be bone dry for the same reason. Ideally you’d plant these seedlings just as the sun goes off the soil you want to plant into so that the leaves don’t get scorched by all of the water left on them during the watering.
- [CHILD] Smooth out the earth with the rake, ensuring there are no lumps of earth left. We had great fun raking patterns into the soil!
- [BOTH] Use the dibbler to make holes at regular intervals (for beetroots you’d usually want a 20cm space between rows but I openly admit I’m planting them together as I intend to harvest them young)
- [BOTH] admire the root structure, the colours of the tendrils and the way the earth clings to the root ball
- [BOTH] Gently lift the seedlings from their tray home and pop them one by one into their new homes. Gently firm the soil around them (saying, should you care to, “Goodnight, you’re all tucked in nice and tight” or similar) and, once they’re all in, water them very carefully so that you don’t knock them over with the force of the stream of water. Ours were absolutely flattened by the first enthusiastic deluge so this is a good opportunity to talk about distances needed when watering.
As always I’ve used the directions [ADULT] and [CHILD] based on what I did with my son. However you know your child best so please think about their own capabilities before embarking on any of our projects. Never leave a child unsupervised. And please do tag us on social media if you post photos of your projects, we’d love to see how you get on!