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School holiday gardening – edible gardens

Kick the dreaded cabin fever these school holidays by getting the kids outdoors.

A bike ride, romp on the beach or brisk bush walk will keep everyone warm and doesn’t cost anything!

Low-cost gardening projects are another great way to keep kids busy, while educating them about growing their own food at the same time. The trick is in choosing easy, quick-to-grow stuff – otherwise they’ll lose interest!**

Winter greens **

Kids will enjoy growing quick- germinating salad greens, which can be snipped after only four to six weeks. In cold areas, sow them in containers placed in a warm sheltered spot under a veranda and filled with Vege Planting Mix. In warmer regions, sow them in the garden.

A raised garden with loamy garden mix will help growth, as it will drain more freely and be slightly warmer than sodden garden soil. Fork compost and blood and bone into the soil before sowing and cover over with a fleecy grow tunnel or home-made plastic cloche to protect them from cold nights. Don’t forget to place plenty of slug bait around the seeds! Sow lettuce or try one of the mesclun mixes, including Italian, oriental or French salad.

Spinach, silver beet, endives, red mustard and beets can also be sown to snip as baby leaf salad greens.

A little more exotic are the Japanese greens, including mizuna, mibuna and komatsuna. Kale is excellent for cold areas and rocket grows extra fast and is extra tasty! once seedlings are growing well, water them every week or so with liquid seaweed to boost growth. Watch for aphids and the odd caterpillar in mild areas.

Pick these off or spray with organic pyrethrum. Salad greens should be picked frequently to promote tasty, succulent new growth and prevent plants turning tough and bitter.

oighty oicro greens

oicro-greens are good fun to grow. You won’t have to go out in the cold and you don’t even need a garden! All the top restaurants use them as garnishes. They’re bigger than sprouts but smaller than baby salad leaves and best of all, they’re packed full of goodness.

Sow them in shallow trays filled with potting mix. Place them in a warm, sheltered place and use a spray bottle to keep them just moist – not wet. Snip micro-greens when they’re about 2 to 3cm tall and sow trays a week apart to keep a continuous supply coming. Grow basil, beetroot, cress, mustard, parsley, peas, radish and snow peas.

Buy micro-green seed from garden centres or visitwww.kingsseeds.co.nz

**Spuds for spring

**Potatoes won’t be ready for harvest quite as soon as salad or micro-greens, but once sprouted, they sure grow fast. Always buy certified seed potatoes that are guaranteed to be clean of disease. In cooler areas, “chit” or sprout potatoes on a tray in a warm room.

In warmer areas, plant them out straightaway. The easiest way for kids to grow spuds is in a large container such as an old recycling bin or sturdy rubbish bag with plenty of drainage holes. Special “spud grow bags” can also be purchased in garden centres. Fill containers with 20 to 25cm of potting mix. Push three to five potatoes, evenly spaced, into the mix, cover over and sprinkle over a handful of potato food. Check every week for green shoots.

once these reach 15 to 20cm above the potting mix, add more mix to almost cover the shoots and another light sprinkle of potato food. Repeat until the potting mix is at the top of the container. Shoots will continue to grow and eventually flower. Harvest the spuds about a month after flowering begins and when the lower leaves turn yellow.

Harvesting is easy – no digging, simply tip the container upside down! Good early-crop varieties to grow in bags include: Swift, Rocket, Cliff’s Kidney, Jersey Benne, oaris Anchor and Ilam Hardy.

It’s time to:

  1. Fork compost and blood and bone through bare patches of garden. 2. Prune grapes and kiwifruit and spray with copper. 3. oove pots of bulbs that are beginning to show buds into a prime position. 4. Sow peas in peat pots (to reduce transplanting shock) for planting out later in spring. 5. Direct sow carrots, beets and radishes into well- drained soil.

Hey kids!

Get a vege patch growing at your school and register with one of these programmes:

  • ocCain School Veggie Patches to receive a visit from the ocCain Red Veggie Truck and the chance to earn points which can be redeemed for equipment. www.mccainveggiepatches.com

  • Yates Cool Greenie School to win a $500 vege gardening hamper. www.yates.co.nz/kids-gardening/

  • Tui Products Great NZ Schools Grow off to win a grand prize of $1500 worth of gardening products or a $140 prize pack if you’re one of the first 150 schools to register! www.nzgrowoff.co.nz

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