We call it the ‘Failed Garden of 2016’ in my family, and when we talk about it, it’s in hushed and shameful tones.
“Remember that time Jo started a vegetable garden, and everything grew and then just died,” my green-thumbed parents will say to each other.
And I know what they are thinking.
“How did we create a child who can’t grow zucchinis?”
“Was there a mix up at the hospital?”
“Surely she’s not our child!”
It’s true, I did try and start a vegetable garden in the summer of 2016.
I’d watched my mum and dad garden my entire life. They made it look so easy.
You just dig up a patch of ground, plant seeds or seedlings and then water it all every now and then.
My children were so excited, for 15 minutes or so at a time.
Usually they were doing the OPPOSITE of getting dirty.
They loved weeding and digging and relocating earth worms.
It took me two days to finish digging up the garden and we excitedly planted carrot seeds, lettuce and zucchinis.
Within two weeks shoots had come up.
Two more weeks and we could see the beginnings of carrots, lettuce and zucchinis.
Then, one terrible morning, as I wandered outside with a mug of coffee in my hand to admire my handiwork, I saw it had all died.
The carrots were frozen in time. They were the world’s smallest, and ugliest carrots. They were inedible.
The lettuce had shriveled.
Listen to the latest episode of Super Mums with special guest Shelly Craft:
The zucchinis had been attacked by bugs.
I dropped to my knees in distress, the breath knocked out of me.
It’s taken this long to heal and I think I’m ready to try again, but this time I won’t be so smug.
This time, I’ll consult an expert.
Gisele Zanier is the founder of Beyond Sunflowers, and she says gardening is great for kids because it gets them outside in the fresh air and sunshine.
She says you don’t even need to grow anything edible, saying some parents aim for a “sensory garden” children can touch and smell, as well as advance their motor skills and intellectual stimulation.
Caterina loves picking flowers on walks in our neighbourhood. Image: Provided
“Strawberries in particular are an easy (and rewarding) plant for your kids to grow, thanks to the added fun of picking and eating your very own berries,” Zanier told 9Honey.
“Fruit trees are another great choice. Go for a lemon or orange tree and make sure you buy an established tree, otherwise you (and your kids) will be waiting years for any fruit!”
Just think of all the lemonade and orange juice you can make.
“Sunflowers, corn, pumpkins and tomatoes are all great choices for visually interesting plants,” she said.
“Make it a mini-greenhouse, set up a worm farm and plant flowers that attract butterflies, ladybirds and other interesting insects and birds.
“Show your kids where flowers, fruit and vegetables come from by planting seeds together.”
She says to let them help decide what to grow.
“A great little experiement is to grow an avocado from seed. As well as enjoying a bounty of free avocados, you and your kids also get to see the huge seed turn into a plant.”