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seeds to plant in winter

Gardening with children in winter: quick and easy growing seeds to plant

We’ve started the seed planting for this year, hurrah!

Sowing seeds is my kids favourite gardening job; it never fails to grab their attention and we always have a really great time doing it. Usually a messy time too, but that goes with the territory!

Now, you may be thinking “But it’s still freezing outside, no way could we start growing tender little seedlings” – and yes, if you planted most seeds outdoors at this time of year you’d be asking for trouble. But you don’t need lots of fancy equipment to make a success of it, and it’s a great way to get gardening with children in winter.

Here’s a quick guide to the best seeds to grow with children in winter, and how to plant them.

Quick and easy growing seeds to sow with kids in winter

You can of course choose to grow any seeds that are happy to be planted under cover in winter; the packet will give you this information. If the kids have a particular plant in mind, go for it! If you’d like some inspiration, here are my top picks for quick and easy growing seeds.

*Sweet peas are perfect for little hands because the seeds are quite big and easy to handle. There are so many varieties to choose from too, so kids can have fun picking their favourite colour or name. Sweet peas are a climbing plant, so you will need to give them some support once they’re planted out into the garden.

*Pansies are always a favourite with my kids, they love their cheerful blooms and bright colours. They’re tough little plants too, so they’re great for enthusiastic little hands.

*Nasturtiums are brilliant on so many levels. They’re really easy to grow, you can grow them as climbing or trailing plants, they have gorgeous bright blooms, and the flowers are edible.

*Coleus is a good foliage plant for kids to grow. The leaves are really bright and colourful, and the seeds are usually sold in mixed packs so you can have fun seeing which varieties appear.

*Snapdragons (also known as Antirrhinums) have cute flowers that look like little snapping beaks, which makes them a fun option for kids. Choose a tall variety and they make fantastic cut flowers too.

Equipment for gardening with children in winter

You don’t need a huge array of fancy equipment to plant seeds with children. Some small plant pots (if you’re buying new ones, try to avoid plastic), plant markers, your seeds, some compost and a watering can is really all you need.

Good quality *seed compost will give your plants a great start, but *general purpose compost is fine too. Ideally your watering can should be small enough for kids to handle, with a rose attachment to deliver a fine shower of water.

It’s by no means essential, but you might want to also use *child-size hand tools. They’re much easier for kids to use effectively, and to be honest I find it easier to use them for this job too!

*Children’s gardening gloves are worth considering too, particularly if your compost is really cold and/or damp. I do think the actual seed sowing is much easier with bare hands though.

If you plant seeds regularly, I can’t recommend a basic *potting station enough. It’s a low-cost piece of kit which keeps pots, compost and tools all in one place for easy access, with a shelf for smaller items like seed packets and plant markers. It’s lightweight and portable, so you can easily set it up at the right height for kids to use. It helps contain the inevitable mess too. Ours is made of plastic, it has been well-used for many years and is still going strong. If you’d like to avoid plastic, you can also buy foldaway potting stations made from fabric; if these had been around when I bought mine I would have definitely gone for this option.

Ideal conditions for growing seeds in winter

Seeds need light, warmth and moisture to germinate, and at this time of year your pots will need to be kept indoors.

At the most basic level, a sunny windowsill in a warm room will do the trick. If you want to give your seeds optimum conditions, a small heated *propagator is the way to go. These take up very little space and provide a steady temperature with ventilation, and they have the added bonus that kids can easily see into them to check on their plants.

How to plant seeds with kids

Before you start gardening with children in winter, I’d recommend gathering all your equipment together. I find this much easier than hunting things down while the kids get cold and impatient!

When you’re ready to plant, spend a couple of minutes looking at the seed packet instructions together, so the kids know what they’re going to be doing. It’s nice to also have a little chat about the conditions seeds need in order to grow, and why; this will help them when it comes to looking after their seedlings.

Choose your plant pot and fill it with compost, aiming to stop when the pot is about three quarters full.

Now it’s time to sow the seeds. Large seeds can be poked individually into the soil, while smaller seeds need to be scattered over the surface of the compost. If your seeds are quite small you might want to practice taking little pinches of seed before you start.

Children will inevitably struggle to sow seeds evenly; don’t worry about this. You can easily thin the seedlings out later, and this is a good gardening skill to learn anyway.

Now you’re ready to sprinkle a small amount of compost over the top of the seeds.

Remember to label your pot – it’s surprisingly easy to forget what you’ve planted where!

The last job is to give your seeds a drink. Remember that rose attachment I mentioned earlier? That stops you flooding the soil and possibly washing away the seeds.

Transfer your pots to their growing spot and you’re done. Encourage children to keep an eye on them and water when necessary. Give your seeds plenty of air too; if you’re using a propagator, open the ventilation slots regularly.

Looking after your seedlings

Once your seedlings start to emerge, things get exciting! Get the kids to check them daily and water them regularly.

Sweet peas planted in November

You could also have fun measuring their height and recording progress on a chart.

You will need to thin out your seedlings if there are clumps growing closely together; to do it, just pull out some seedlings to leave more room for those remaining.

A quick note on ‘legginess’: this is when seedlings grow tall and spindly, and is more likely to happen when they are grown indoors. It’s caused by too much heat and/or not enough light, so adjust these conditions if your plants are looking a bit stretched.

One final tip: hang onto your seed packets, even if they’re empty. They’re a handy reference guide to caring for your plants, and will also tell you the ideal time to transfer them outdoors.

And that’s it, a quick guide to fun gardening with children in winter! We’ll be sowing seeds regularly for the next few weeks, it’s such a lovely way to start off the year in the garden and look forward to lots of lovely flowers in spring and summer. You can find some other suggestions on ideal seeds to grow with children here, and you might also want to check out my post on successful seed sowing with kids for some more tips.

I hope we’ve inspired you to get growing with the kids this winter – let me know what you’re planting!

Need ideas for gardening with children in winter? This step-by-step guide covers the best quick and easy growing seeds and how to plant them.

Top 10 Vegetables to Grow Over Winter

Don’t let your vegetable plot stand empty and neglected over winter. There are plenty of winter vegetables to grow throughout the coldest months.

Top 10 Vegetables to Grow Over Winter

Don’t let your vegetable plot stand empty and neglected over winter. There are plenty of winter vegetables to grow throughout the coldest months.

Growing winter vegetables allows you to extend the season, and many vegetables that can be grown in winter will produce earlier crops than spring plantings.

If you were really organised in late spring/ early summer then you will have already grown some winter vegetable plants such as Winter Cabbage, Kale and Brussels Sprouts. These will be well under way by autumn and you will already have started planting your winter vegetables outdoors.

But don’t worry if it slipped your mind – there are lots of tasty vegetables to grow in winter that can be still sown this autumn.

Vegetables to grow outdoors in winter

Most winter vegetable plants are fully hardy and will cope well with cold winter weather, but if hard frosts threaten then you can always throw some fleece across them to provide some extra protection.

Most can be planted or sown directly outdoors to ensure that your winter vegetable garden is fully stocked.

1. Onions and Shallots

Autumn planting onion sets are easy to grow and will virtually look after themselves over winter. Onions have a long growing season and won’t be ready for harvesting until next summer, so you will need to plan carefully as they will still be in the ground when you start planting other crops in spring. Onion ‘First Early’ is a popular and reliable variety or for a brightly coloured red onion try Onion ‘Electric’. In recent years Shallots have become more popular with the trendy gardener. Autumn planting ‘Echalote Grise’ is a particularly choice variety for its intense and concentrated flavour.

2. Garlic

Growing garlic couldn’t be easier and there are lots of varieties to choose from for autumn planting. Like onions, they have a long growing season and won’t be ready to harvest until next summer, but it is well worth the wait! ‘Wight Cristo’ is well suited to most culinary dishes, but if you enjoy the fuller flavour of baked garlic, then try the attractive variety ‘Chesnok Red’ for its delicious creamy texture. For true garlic fans (and customers with vampire problems) T&M offers a full collection that will provide you with bumper crops of garlic.

3. Spring Onions

Winter hardy varieties of Spring onion make a tasty accompaniment to winter salads. They are a fairly quick growing crop and early autumn sowings should be ready to harvest by early spring. Spring Onion ‘White Lisbon’ is a popular and reliable winter hardy variety.

4. Perpetual Spinach

Perpetual spinach makes an excellent ‘cut and come again’ crop that will produce huge yields of tasty leaves. Early autumn sowings will keep you supplied with tender young leaves throughout winter and with regular harvesting it will continue to crop well into summer! Be sure to remove the flowers to prevent it running to seed.

5. Broad Beans

Autumn sown broad beans can be harvested in spring up to a month earlier than spring sown plants. Broad Bean ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ is one of the best for autumn sowings, being particularly quick to establish. Once the plants are well grown you can even use the plant tips – they are delicious wilted with a little butter.

6. Peas

Enjoy an early crop of peas next spring. Autumn sowings of rounded varieties such as Pea ‘Kelvedon Wonder’ and Pea ‘Meteor’ are particularly hardy and will give you a head start next season. You will be the envy of the allotment when you start harvesting peas 3 or 4 weeks earlier than other growers!

7. Asparagus

If you have plenty of space then why not plant a permanent asparagus bed this autumn. Choose an autumn planting variety such as Asparagus ‘Mondeo’ or the colourful variety ‘Pacific Purple’. Although asparagus beds take several years to establish, each asparagus crown can produce up to 25 spears per year and will continue cropping for 25 years. You will need to be patient with this crop as it will be 2 years before you can harvest them properly – but the promise of tender, home grown asparagus spears is well worth the wait.

Vegetables to grow in the greenhouse in winter

Growing winter vegetables outdoors will make good use of your plot, but there are some crops that will need a little protection from the cold. These vegetables to grow over winter can be sown into cells and transplanted later into the soil borders of an unheated greenhouse, or grown under polytunnels, cloches and cold frames.

8. Winter Salads

Salads are not just for summer! Sow tasty ‘cut and come again’ mixes such as ‘The Good Life Mix’ under cover for harvesting throughout the winter months. Plant rows of Lambs Lettuce, Land Cress and Mustard alongside to add a spicy, peppery flavour to your winter salads. For tasty, crisp heads of Lettuce you can also try Lettuce ‘Winter Gem’.

9. Carrots

For an exceptionally early crop of carrots in spring try growing Adelaide. This fast-maturing variety can be sown as early as November in the greenhouse and as late as July outdoors.

10. Pak Choi

This dual purpose oriental vegetable can be harvested young throughout the winter as individual salad leaves, or let the heads mature and add the succulent stems to stir fries. Pak Choi is quick to mature and packed full of healthy vitamins A and C as well as Calcium, Iron and Folic Acid. Although it is often grown as a summer crop, Pak Choi can still be sown in late summer for transplanting under cover in autumn.

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Written by: Sue Sanderson

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Take a look at our top 10 vegetables to grow in winter. T&M’s helpful guide makes sure you can keep harvesting in the colder months ]]>