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easy tips for an allotment novice with children under foot please!

(18 Posts)
Meglet Sat 19-Apr-14 19:22:32

We've lucked out with a lovely, tidy allotment and shed so I'm hoping we can have a small harvest in the autumn.

The kids will have a small patch each so they don't destroy my main plot.

I've had some success growing veg in my tiny garden so was going to start with spuds, peas, carrots and courgettes. If we have a good year I'll need to plan on where to store it and how to use it up <<makes mental note to google courgette recipes>>.

Any must do's to make life easier and beginners mistakes to avoid?

WhoKnowsWhereTheChocolateGoes Sun 20-Apr-14 09:11:08

Get their patch prepared and dug first, my new allotment has solid clay soil, is very overgrown and is taking a lot of effort to prepare. DD(8) can't understand that (she has only ever gardened in raised beds with compost before). She just wants to get on with planting.

I ran a gardening club at the DCs school for three years, what they want to do is dig, plant seeds and water, water, water. Or spray. Or write on seed labels. It helps to have everything to hand and know what you are going to do, they get bored if you can't find the pen to write on the labels, or the trowel. Also only let them choose from a selection of suitable seeds/plants. Put away anything that they can't do now.

I'm not a big fan of children's gardening tools, they are usually very flimsy, but small watering cans are very useful. Our default time filler at gardening club was watering, they never tired of it.

Also get them looking out for mini-beasts, maybe take an I-spy nature book and magnifying glass to the allotment. Also drinks and snacks, picnics on the allotment are great.

Smudge588 Sun 20-Apr-14 09:18:10

How old are your DCs? We have a 3 yr old and other older kids who help out. They all get involved in most things but the younger they are the more supervision obviously. Potato planting and harvesting is easy and will help with your soil and they all love that. Harvesting is also a great time for kids to get involved.

For when you have stuff you want to get on with, watering seems to keep DS entertained for ages as does letting him have a mud patch for digging with his toy diggers while we do other stuff. I would also recommend a sandpit with little ones. We got one on free cycle. The older ones are happy to dig their patch and plant their own stuff.

Smudge588 Sun 20-Apr-14 09:24:54

Also pumpkins and sunflowers are big hits with kids. If you can fit a few strawberries or raspberry canes in they will go down well and are easy to grow. And if you do have a good harvest, cook, freeze and store some, but don't worry about having too much. We find the kids love to take extra to friends and neighbours because they are proud of what they've done.

Agree with having lots of picnics and snacks, especially if you can eat as you pick! Enjoy! We've had allotments for a few years now and love the family time it gives us.

orangepudding Sun 20-Apr-14 09:27:53

Plant so fruit such as raspberries, gooseberries and currants. They are easy to maintain and kids love picking fruit!

Permanentlyexhausted Sun 20-Apr-14 09:39:38

Agree with everything Whoknows has said.

Take camping chairs or something to sit on, and plenty of warm clothes - cold children on the allotment is not good for getting work done. Plenty of food and drink. I find a packet of boiled sweets is great.

Children's tools are mostly rubbish. Get them to use hand tools or a border fork/spade. Rakes are good - my children can spend ages raking the soil.

And electronic games - sometimes it's better for them just to play on the DS whilst I get on with what needs doing.

Meglet Sun 20-Apr-14 19:57:39

whoknows that's a good point about digging their plot first. We were going to pop over tomorrow and try and get that sorted.

smudge Totally forgot about sunflowers, I've got loads of seeds lying around so we'll get them sown pronto.

orange we've got raspberries in the garden so I could try blackcurrants on the allotment.

permanently I've already been using the stash of small easter hunt eggs to keep them happy while they're out there grin. We've got chairs over there and I need to pop a tub in the shed with baby wipes, tissues and plasters.

I've bought them a trowel and mini spade each from the 99p shop, I doubt they'll last for long but they'll keep them happy for now.

All the neighbours are so nice. I've already been offered a surplus compost bin and been lent a fork to dig it over (couldn't carry everything on the first day).

WhoKnowsWhereTheChocolateGoes Sun 20-Apr-14 21:08:21

Good idea re plasters, going to pop some of those and some antiseptic wipes in my allotment box. Plus suncream <hopeful>

stubbornstains Sun 20-Apr-14 21:14:29

The moment you have a cleared bed, cover it over with old carpet or black plastic or something, unless you're planning to plant it within a couple of weeks. Nothing worse than going to all the effort of clearing a patch, only to have the weeds invade it again within a month.

Find out if any of the other plots are rented by families with kids- if so, make an effort to get to know them, and see if you can synchronise your visits. We had 2 whole interrupted hours' worth of gardening yesterday, while DS was off engaging in Lord of the Flies-type activities with the 5 year old from 2 plots along. Bliss grin.

Oh yes, and grow rainbow chard. Piss easy, looks pretty, and lasts for ages, so fills in hungry gaps. Nice braised with feta.

Meglet Mon 21-Apr-14 18:21:16

stubborn Rainbow chard sounds dead posh, I'll check that out.

There's some black membrane left over in the shed from the previous owner. We'll get that down this weekend.

The kids seem to be enjoying it. When they get bored with helping, ie; every 5 mins, they go off for a wander and look at the other plots.

And now for the shallow bit....I'm quite pleased I've sorted out my allotment wardrobe. I'd kept my ancient slightly baggy post baby jeans, have a few pairs of old uggs and some pretty tops that don't mind getting grubby. I've got a stash of gloves so I don't mess up my nails grin.

SylvaniansKeepGettingHoovered Mon 21-Apr-14 19:52:51

Can I ask how you manage with lack of toilets? Most allotment sites near me seem to have no toilets, so I guess I'd have to keep bringing the kids home every half hour or so?! I'd like an allotment but this puts me off

Meglet Mon 21-Apr-14 20:08:07

We have a toilet on ours. It's actually very clean, I think the older ladies keep everyone in line!

I do make the kids go before we leave home though. I'm not a fan of public loos.

stubbornstains Mon 21-Apr-14 20:41:47

Piss on the compost heap, it's a great accelerator grin.

...although the day DS decided he had to have a poo and I loaded him into the car and drove him to ASDA 10 minutes away, whereupon he decided he didn't need one after all was not a good one....

(yes, no toilet on ours...)

WhoKnowsWhereTheChocolateGoes Mon 21-Apr-14 20:57:55

No toilets on ours, that had never even occurred to me. So far we've never been for more than about an hour and a half so it hasn't been an issue (DCs are 8 and 10). I haven't made them go before leaving the house for years now. We're less than 10 mins walk from home if all else fails.

Smudge588 Tue 22-Apr-14 18:34:47

No toilets on ours either. Occasionally DS needs a wee so does it in a corner somewhere but never been a problem.

SylvaniansKeepGettingHoovered Wed 23-Apr-14 12:53:42

I have two daughters, I guess the toilet problem is a bit easier with boys!

Meglet Wed 23-Apr-14 20:58:47

stubborn I can just imagine DS being thrilled if he was allowed to start weeing on the compost heap. I'd have to stop him doing all of them on the site.

stubbornstains Thu 24-Apr-14 20:22:18

How old is your DS meglet? Mine is 4, and often has to be forcibly restrained from whipping it out in a variety of inappropriate places. I'm afraid to say that he particularly enjoys showing off his mighty wee prowess in front of his little girl friends grin.

But little girls can wee outside too! They just don't take so much obvious relish from it...

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