Shall We Dig Up The Potatoes, Little D?

Back in May, Andrew helped Little D plant potatoes for the first time. This project was for Little D to learn more about growing and tending plants, he had to plant the potatoes, water them and eventually harvest them. He's been very excited for the last week or so as he'd watched the potatoes flower and start to die back. Andrew pointed out every time we came home how the spuds were doing in the herb garden. We chose to plant potatoes with Little D because the seed is easy to handle for little hands and easy to harvest from sacks, no digging involved, just messy play. We wanted to see how well potato sacks would do in a small garden, with a view to using them for all the harvests in the future. Little D chose the variety, Cara, to plant because his Granddad was growing some in sacks at his house and he wanted to beat him in yields.

Potato harvesting with children

With Andrew sitting on path, taking photos, we started to find the hidden gold in the potato sacks. We found many of the potatoes at the bottom of the bag making us wonder why earthing them up hadn't produced more potatoes further up the sack. Little D admitted at this point that he should have watered them more. He's only a small boy but already he has realised that potatoes are made up largely of water. 

Getting children into gardening

After ten minutes of soil flying everywhere, we told you it was messy play, even Andrew gets covered and he's sat on the steps well away from us, we're doing quite well with a trug that is nearly quarter full. Though Little D was responsible for watering, he often forgot because he was busy building things in his bedroom or tired after school, so he's delighted that he has enough for chips. The fact that we have chickens means we're also covered for eggs. This leads into a conversation about our late and rather vicious White Sussex cockerel, Bertie, who pecked Little D all the way up the garden. Little D tells us if we kept him we could have had chicken and chips but eggs will have to do instead. He then points out that then the meal, chips and egg, won't have come from a shop but from our garden. This is a big step for Little D, he knows we grow our own but he's never put two and two together in terms of, not ALL food has to come from a shop. He is a child of his age, and his school friends often discuss what their parents, and they have bought from a shop. We still use supermarkets but at this time of year most of our vegetables come from the garden and most of our soft fruit too. We're the odd family on the hill he don't spend a fortune in supermarkets. Little D doesn't realise we preserve our own produce too, he's seen us make jam, chutneys (sometimes grown, sometimes foraged) and pickles, but it's never really sunk in why. The act of growing a meal himself is something different and makes him consider the difference between homegrown and shop bought. He likes chocolate, he says, can we grow a chocolate tree?

Harvesting potatoes with children, how to get them into growing

Halfway though potato sack two and we find a small frog. We discuss with him why we don't use chemicals in the garden, and how a small frog like this will grow into a bigger frog, and that it will eat slugs and other nasty pests around the garden. Little D immediately points out that we need a pond in the back garden, at present we only have his small pond in the herb garden, and he's delighted that we have frogs checking it out. He discusses with Andrew the need for some big pebbles so the frogs can get in and out of the water, and then tells us we need a ladder so they can get down.

Get a pond, encourage wildlife

After another ten minutes of hunt the spuds. Little D tells us that the sticks (the haulm) are hard to pull out because the potatoes won't let them go.

He's putting two and two together and tells us that the haulm grows the potato, and that if we dig around them we'll find potatoes made out of mash. Okay, so he goes a little off script here but at least he knows mash comes from potatoes and not the supermarket.

A family that grows together, grows together

We pose with our final trug of spuds, around 3lbs from two potato sacks, that were supposed to be watered but were forgotten to be watered by a small boy busy playing in his room. Little D has is own priorities, and they are now chips and egg for tea. It just shows that after four months of growing a crop, harvesting it and then eating it, you can get children to garden, and through it talk to them about the world around them so that they don't take their food, or nature, for granted.


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