Grow snakes, swans and hedgehogs with your children
Check out gourds for fun and easy plants for children to grow.
Occasionally when I saunter round my local garden centre, I happen upon a packet of seeds that just screams "take me home to your children!" that I'm incapable of ignoring.
This time it was packets of gourds.
These are trailing or climbing plants which are related to pumpkins, squash, and cucumber. They bear fruit with a hard rind
Oh how I love gourds. They come in all shapes and sizes and last year I surprised myself by growing some birdhouse ones that, well, look like birdhouses and can actually be made into birdhouses. How cool is that?
On this occasion I was on a solo seed buying jaunt but no matter, I knew that both my younger children would be as powerless to resist growing these plants as I was in buying the seeds.
I chose three; gourds that would grow long and thin and curl round like a snake, ones that would look like swans (yes, complete with long necks) and a final packet that would grow into spikey hedgehogs.
The fabulous thing about growing anything in the squash family is that they have large seeds which are easy for children to handle and, in my experience, always germinate.
You don't get many in a packet (we averaged six) but sow them all, just in case. Get your child to fill a pot with compost then place the seed on it's side (not flat, on its edge) and push it into the soil. This will hopefully stop it rotting. Then place the pot somewhere warm and sunny and don't forget to water it.
When their true leaves have emerged (the first ones are seed leaves) and all danger of frost has passed (which should be very soon), you can plant them out but remember they like lots of space.
Like courgettes, they're hungry plants so add some home-made compost or manure to the planting hole and up-end a plastic bottle with the bottom cut off next to it so you can add water to this and therefore get it down to the roots.
Eventually you should end up with a few "snakes". Once you've picked these they need to be dried somewhere and then they can be decorated (not eaten!). You have only got until the end of the month to sow these so hurry to your garden centre!
Photo: Debbie Webber
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