Autumn is by far my children’s favourite season as it is filled with amazing natural displays of colour, fun walks in the woodlands collecting chestnuts, conkers and acorns, and plenty of hot chocolate to keep little hands warm in the garden. Also, after the extremely hot summer we have just had here in Norfolk, it is lovely to feel the crisp wind and admire the return of the green grass.
For kids, Autumn is about understanding seasons, raking leaves for pocket money, collecting conkers and finding toadstools. In a previous blog (https://www.minigreenfingers.com/blogs/news/five-autumn-gardening-ideas-for-kids) I have presented my favourite 5 autumn garden/nature activities that are great for children but this time I will focus on what kids can sow and plant ahead of winter.
So what can kids sow this late Autumn?
Sowing wildflowers in Autumn mimics what happens in nature when summer wildflowers dry off and release their seeds. The latter will travel in various ways (through wind, on animal furs or through fab acrobatics propelled by their pods, etc.) to spread far and wide and be ready to sprout and grow after winter is over.
If you are already growing wildflowers in your garden, picking the flower heads and pods, and separating the seeds from the dry petals/seeds pods is a great activity for small hands. This can also help children better understand the biology of seed dispersion. Once your mini gardener has gathered the seed, they can have fun spreading them either where the wildflowers are already growing (most will be annuals so will die in winter) or in new areas of the garden. And if you don’t have a garden, wildflowers can be sown in pots to be displayed on windowsills and balconies.
If you don’t have access to wildflowers, you can shop for some with your mini gardener and find a mixture that attracts the types of insects or animals that you’d like in your garden. If you are looking for some inspiration you can check out our seed collection as many of the seeds we stock are wildflowers and are perfect for autumn sowing.
- Spring Bulbs
Spring flowering bulbs are a great entry activity into gardening and sowing for children because they are usually fairly big and therefore easier to handle and it is rare not to get some beautiful results in spring. Early flowering bulbs not only create a colourful spectacle after months of greys and brown but are also really important for those insects that wake up early from hibernation or do not fully hibernate.
Bulbs need plenty of drainage to avoid rotting during the wet winter months so they are best planted in sandy or gritty soil. They don't need to be planted in borders as they can be pretty spectacular in pots especially if layered (children can create a 'bulb lasagna' with bulbs flowering at different timepoints). Bulbs are also a favourite snack of naughty squirrels so it is worth covering the pots with mesh to protect them.
- Sweet peas
Early flowering sweet peas can be sown in late Autumn and left in a cold-frame over winter. They are another easy seed for little ones to handle as they tend to be fairly large and once they start growing and flowering they are a real joy for both humans and any garden wildlife. Sweet peas are loved by bees so are great for attracting pollinators to your garden or even veggie patch and they make lovely sweet smelling posies too!
Unlike the bulbs, sweet peas need good quality compost. Alternatives to plastic pots can be used such as home-made paper pots (here are the instructions for our version!), cardboard toilet paper rolls or even bamboo pots. Sow one seed for each 7cm pot or a few in larger pots. I have also been advised to cover the pots with newspaper until the seedlings emerge.
What have you been sowing this Autumn and what are you still planning to sow this year with your young gardener? Drop me a comment if you feel like sharing!!