Growing herbs with children is a great way to get them started in and around the garden. In my opinion every garden should have a selection of herbs that it can use in the kitchen. Many people will buy herbs from the supermarket and often for only one meal. As we know, plastic packaging is becoming increasing unpopular and buying something that can be provided fresh in the garden for a one time use, just isn’t very good for the environment.
Should herbs be grown from seed or bought as plants?
This very much depends on what herbs you are looking to grow in the garden. Some herbs are quite easy to grow from seed and overall, this will be a cheaper option. Growing from seed also has the added benefit of children learning about plant growth. However, you will need a lot of patience to grow them this way and won’t necessarily get the benefit in year one.
Another option would be to go to your local garden centre or nursery and see if they stock herbs in small pots. These are usually smaller than ones that you will be able to use straight away but will mature quicker than growing from seed. They are often cheaper too.
If you are looking to buy them in pots for immediate growth, then you can always grow some other vegetables from seed such as beans or spinach so that your children are able to experience the magic of growing from seed whilst your herbs mature.
Where should herbs be planted?
Herbs are actually pretty versatile and you can plant them pretty much anywhere. We’ve listed some ideas below depending on what type of garden you have or one that you would like to create.
Formal herb garden:
If you have the room, you could create a formal herb garden. You can do this by creating some raised beds or beds that have a border in the ground itself. The lovely thing about creating a garden in this way is that it is a permanent feature in the garden and the herbs can be used in the kitchen all year round. It will also provide children with some similarity of the herbs in the garden. I know from our own garden, herbs are picked quite regularly and used in recipes in the mud kitchen. Not only that, our toddler also quite likes going in the garden to rub the herbs with his hands and smell them.
Ideas for a herb garden for smaller gardens:
Contrary to what you might think, you don’t need a big garden to grow herbs and those with smaller gardens should not be put off from growing them. Herbs don’t really take up that much space if they are kept in check. Yes, if you leave them to grow and grow, they will become large and unmanageable. Although, if you are short in space, herbs may well be the choice of plant so that you can actually use them in your day to day life rather than just them being a focal point.
Herbs will most certainly do well in containers. You will need to ensure that the containers are well drained as herbs tend not to like soggy soil. You could either plant them as singular herbs in pots or a larger container such as a veg trug. You can also buy smaller herbs planters which are more suited to patios. For these you will need to buy the plants from a garden centre or nursery.
Because they are so versatile, you can also get creative with your planting. If you are only using the herbs for the summer, try potting them in an old pair of wellies for visual effect – just make sure that you drill some holes in the soles so that the water can drain out of the bottom.
Choosing what herbs to grow
When growing herbs with children, you are going to want to choose some that you can use in the kitchen. This means that your little helpers will be able to fetch them for you and bring them back to the kitchen. You will also want to consider what you want to do with your herbs. If you are looking to make some goodies for the kitchen, such as mint sauce then you will want to ensure that there is an abundance of mint. Here are some simple suggestions to get you started.
Mint is incredibly easy to grow. It appreciates full sun and can be used quite liberally in the kitchen. You will want to be careful about planting it in open beds as it has a tendency to take over. Plant in containers and harvest regularly to keeping the plant at its best. A great herb for children’s herb gardens.
Lemon balm is highly versatile and can be used for multiple uses. Herbal teas or simply a lemon kick to salads and fish dishes. It is best grown in containers if you are short on space and thrives in full sun or partial shade. One of my favourite herbs to have in the garden.
Rosemary loves a nice sunny position in well drained soil. This really is a staple in the kitchen garden and can be used in so many dishes – both summer and winter. There is nothing better than running your hands through the plant and enjoying its aroma. Children will love picking this for the kitchen.
Sage likes its sunlight. It is an evergreen herb that has many uses in the kitchen. It is one of those herbs that you can harvest as and when you need it and will compliment a number of dishes. A lovely herb that is easy for children to harvest with a unique flavour and smell. Here’s our guide on growing sage
Liking a sunny spot with well drained soil, this herb will bring you an abundance of flavour. It will also look great all year round with over 200 varieties to choose from. Thyme can also be dried for use throughout the winter months as well as being picked fresh for summer dishes.
Chives are a low maintenance perennial herb. Chives are most definitely best placed within a salad, and especially in egg or potato. They grow with tall leaves and produce a lovely purple flower that is especially popular with bees. An absolute must for any herb garden either in containers or the bed. Check out our guide on growing Chives here.
Use in the winter time:
In our household, we like roast dinners over the winter time. One of the main herbs that we use from the garden is rosemary. It is just delicious when use in roasting winter vegetables, you can’t beat it. So much so, that we now have three plants in the garden that should be enough to get us through the winter. The best bit about it, other than the cost of the plant it is free and they just keep producing more.
It’s also great for children too. It means that we can get out into the garden, even in the darkest and coldest of months and pick something to use from the garden. Whilst the conditions won’t really allow the plants to grow back, the spring will take care of that when it comes back around again.
In the summer:
The summer also has many uses for herbs. For one, they make beautiful ornamental plants in the garden and secondly they help make delicious dishes. Children will love picking herbs for the kitchen and at the age of 3, ours already knows which herbs are in the garden and how to pick them for Mummy and Daddy. There are a number of meals that you can create in the summer time that are complimented by herbs. Chives are wonderful when it comes to potato salads and thyme will help marinade most chicken dishes that are cooked on the BBQ.
Herbs are most definitely something that should be in any children’s garden. This is both from a practical point of view and also from a sensory view point.