Chapter 1: Preparing the soil and first sowing session of the year
I was the luckiest mum on Mother’s Day this year, it was the day I got to start working on the vegetables of the new season. It was pretty cold still, but it was dry and my three kids were keen to make a start with me. This is what we did on Mother’s Day and the following days:
Preparing the soil in the vegetable garden
Preparing the soil is a big job, there is a lot to do before we can even think about sowing.
- Weeding and breaking up the soil
- Prepare the compost
- Mixing in the new compost with the soil
Weeding and breaking up the soil
The first big job at the beginning of a new growing season is weeding and loosening up the soil of the vegetable garden itself. The weeding wasn’t too bad this year because it was still cold and the weeds hadn’t had much chance yet. Breaking up and turning the soil is quite hard though especially because we have a tough clay soil in the area. It is too hard for the kids, so that is my job. I use a fork for it, not a spade as a fork is much easier and it breaks up the soil rather than turning it over in big chunks.
Preparing the compost
We have two big open compost bins. We collect the lawn cuttings, the smaller bits of pruning in the garden and lots of leaves in autumn in there. The kitchen waste and weeds from the garden go into the green bin.
I used the fork agin to make the compost loose and to take out the biggest branches that were still in there. Then the kids helped me digging and looking for worms and bugs and treasure. That worked nicely to make the compost even more loose. At this point the compost was ready to be sieved. We have a big sieve that we use to filter out the bigger chunks. Those bits go on the second compost bin to be composted further. What goes through the sieve is nice and fine and perfect for the vegetables.
Using the compost to improve the soil of the vegetable garden
Because in the area we live the soil is very heavy and rich in clay we need to add a good amount of compost to the soil. It does not only add a lot of nutrients to the soil but it also improves the soil texture a lot, to make it easier for the plant to push their roots through the soil.
Our lovely homemade compost has been delivered from the compost bin with a little red wheelbarrow and some diggers. We even had all the accompanying sounds of the diggers as well! We have a children size rake, so mixing the compost with the soil was definitely not my job! Hopefully this homemade compost does the job just as nice as the shop bought one, it was definitely a lot cheaper!
First sowing session of the year: What veggies do you choose?
Finally we got to sow, yay! We went to the garden centre together and everybody got to choose a few vegetables they preferred to grow. Last year we had beetroot because our littlest is crazy about them. We also had runner beans because someone hoped there might come a giant to live on the top like in the story of Jack and the beanstalk. We have also tried cucumber for a couple of years because it was our daughter’s favourite vegetables but so far with no success at all. Potatoes and strawberries have worked quite well in the past.
This year we have something new, we have radishes. I didn’t know at the start, but I have learned now that Peter Rabbit is crazy about juicy radishes, so my son though they must be delicious. He hadn’t really tried, because I don’t tend to buy them for some reason. I did buy some after he wanted to sow them and he wasn’t totally smitten by them, but he did really try to like them! We have also sown rainbow carrots because they look so pretty and they make great pictures too. We have some beetroot and parsnip again as they did really well last year. We are trying cucumber again as well, who knows, maybe we can find the trick that does make them grow! (advice welcome here…)
We have peas as well, just because they are fun to eat them straightaway as you pick them. There will be some shallots because their smell keeps the carrot fly at bay. Finally some cauliflower because that has become another favourite vegetable recently.
We used some of our own compost and some bought compost especially for sowing, we’ll see what works best. We used those biodegradable little pots, they can go into the soil entirely. That is quicker and easier as well as otherwise the little seedlings easily get damaged, especially if I want to let the kids do this lovely part of the job.
We have kept the pots with seeds indoors for a few weeks and then moved them outside in a little protecting plastic tunnel. We call it our green house at the moment. I hope it will do the job of keeping them a bit warmer than outside. It definitely protects them from the birds, the rabbits and the squirrels who like to join us in the garden.
Now we are waiting and waiting and waiting…
I hope to show you some pictures of beautiful little seedlings in part 2 of my’ Sow, grow and eat with kids’ series.