Gardening with children is both fun and rewarding! I have noticed many children have a fascination with ‘magic seeds’ (er… beans anyway) and planting seeds to grow their very own apple, cherry, whatever-they-love-to-eat tree or plant can be very exciting. As a child, I remember planting seeds from an apple I had eaten to have my own apple tree. And now my children have tried burying cherry, peach and nectarine pits with hopes their very own trees would soon sprout!
What have you noticed? Do the children in your life show a keen, albeit fleeting interest in growing something fantastic? If so, how about planting some peas together? Peas are really geared towards kids as they are easy to handle, easy to plant and grow quickly – elements required to foster the magic of growing.
Of course there’s the added bonus that fresh peas offer a mild, slightly sweet delicious flavor and can be eaten right off the vine. Now how fun is that!!
The first step in pea planting is to pre-sprout them. This is super simple yet important because it helps the peas germinate and begin growing more quickly than if planted directly in the garden – a key factor in keeping kids interested. Also, it reduces the chance that the peas will rot in the cool wet soil as they will already have small roots growing, using energy from the water and soil. I don’t use an inoculant when planting peas, instead I use this pre-sprouting method and have been pleased with the results. However, if interested in an inoculant give it a try as it is known to increase yields.
To start, place the pea seeds in a small glass of water for a few minutes. Next have the kids get a paper towel and wet it with water so that it is damp.
Take some peas and lay them on one end of the damp towel. Fold the paper towel over keeping the peas in place and fold each of the sides over so the peas do not fall out.
Now gently slide them into a ziplock bag, close it 3/4 of the way (keep a little air circulation) and place in a warm spot. A window sill that gets indirect light or somewhere in your kitchen with medium light is a good choice. If you like, have the children label the bags so they can keep track of their seeds. Also, if choosing to grow more than one kind of pea, make a note of what is in each bag so you can remember the growth habit of the particular varieties such as height etc…
Over the next 3-4 days make sure the paper towel stays moist and have the children check the peas by sliding the towel out of the bag to look for sprouts. Keep the towel moist by using a spray bottle to spray a little water on the towel. The peas should start shooting out little roots in just a few days and it is now time to plant them.
(If you can’t plant them immediately, its o.k. but try not to have too much moisture in the zip lock or they can begin to mold. I had to leave our peas in the bags for six days before we all had time to get back to our garden project and they were fine but the sooner you can plant the better.)
Before planting make sure your site gets six hours or more of sun and has been amended with some compost or organic matter for the upcoming growing season. Also, if planting peas that climb high make sure you have a structure for them to grow on.
Have kids make approximately 1 inch deep holes about 2-3 inches apart. They can make them with their fingers in the loosened soil or with a little stick etc… They place the peas in the hole with the little roots placed on the down-side and then gently cover them with soil. If planting a large row dig a 1 inch deep furrow and place peas along the bottom and gently cover with soil. Give planted peas a good soak and let the magic begin!
Now go ahead, kidnap the children in your life from their extra curricular activities, computers, friends, the T.V. and various other distractions and spend some time together planting peas. You’ll be HAP-PEA with the results!