Our Dinosaur Day Out

My usual posts about our trips tend to be garden or farm focused, but I’m straying away from that theme just this once to talk about our recent day out for our dinosaur mad preschooler’s birthday treat!

Henry turned 4 in August and for months before this he’d been telling anyone who was interested that he’d be going to a dinosaur park for his birthday. Still being relatively new to living in the West Country, I called out to other mums on Facebook to ask if there was anything in the area that would vaguely meet his expectations, and I was swamped with recommendations for Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park.

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Combe Martin is situated just outside of Ilfracombe on the North Devon coast, about an hour and a half away from us but we felt it was worth the trip for Henrysaurus.

I booked our tickets online in advance and we set off early in order to beat the queues, and I’m glad I did! We arrived not long after the gates were open, and our first stop (excuse the pun) was the Dino Express, as we figured it would get busy later in the day.

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We expected this miniature train ride to take us around the dinosaur section of the park, but in fact it was more like a mini theme park attraction, telling a story with a rather soggy ending… I won’t spoil it for you but let’s say you need the rain covers that are provided when you set off on the short journey!

Next we visited the animatronic dinosaurs which came to life every hour on the hour, in a mini Jurassic Park style setting. Henry and Seb were a little wary at first as we’d warned them that the dinos would move, but once they were confident that they weren’t going to get swallowed up by prehistoric lizard, they thoroughly enjoyed the 10 minute show.

Then we set off through the Domain of the Dinosaurs, a walk that takes you down through the valley, spotting various dinos along the way. It’s worth pointing out at this stage that the whole park is located on quite a steep hill, and you’re very aware as you’re walking into the valley that what goes down, has got to come up again (including a 2 year old’s little legs).

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The Domain of the Dinosaurs was definitely the highlight of the visit for us, as the boys got to spot dinosaurs within the natural environment surrounding them. Henry has a passion for remembering the names of different species, so he was excited to spot several dinosaurs that he recognised (and many that we didn’t know!)

The gigantic Triceratops that’s situated towards the end of the trail was quite literally breathtaking, and although not actual sized, really gave us a feel of how magnificent the dinosaurs must have been.

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Once we’d had our fill of dinosaurs, we ate our lunch in one of the allocated picnic areas and headed off to check out the rest of the animals in the wildlife park. We discovered that Combe Martin doesn’t have the largest range of animals on site, and although we enjoyed seeing the lemurs, the penguins and the meercats, the boys weren’t too bothered about the rest of the inhabitants such as wolves and snakes.

Other attractions at the park included Tomb of the Pharaohs, which to be honest was a bit scary for our 4 and 2 year olds but would be good fun for older children who have an interest in ancient Egypt, as it’s very well presented and filled with facts and information!

There’s also a very small dinosaur museum situated behind the gift shop, which we didn’t even know about until right at the end of our visit when we were waiting for Daddy to get the car! It includes a replica of a dinosaur skeleton and a tiny cinema where you can watch a film about dinosaurs.

We didn’t visit the Critter Cavern or the Botanical Gardens as we didn’t think the boys would be interested in these areas, and we’d already filled our day out with lots of dinosaur action!

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Finally, we ended our visit in the obligatory Dinosaurus Soft Play area… Let’s be honest, what kid is going to resist that? As far as soft play centres go, this one ranked quite highly with us. It’s a spacious area with plenty of seating, and the apparatus itself is huge! There’s also the biggest ball pool the boys have ever experienced. Signs request that an adult accompanies each child into the play zone and I’d agree with this, as it’s a maze of tunnels, nets, slides and bridges, and Sebastian could have easily got lost! I think they could beef up the dinosaur theme in there, as it just consisted of a few pictures on the walls, but the boys weren’t complaining.

In summary, I’d say if you are visiting the park for the dinosaur day out, you won’t be disappointed. The animatronic dinosaurs were just enough to fascinate our young boys without scaring them – when we planned the trip I was a bit concerned that it would be the fastest visit ever, if the dinosaurs were too ferocious! I really hope they continue to extend their range of dino exhibits and attractions, as it’s a win for kids and adults alike – we had 5 grown ups in our party who loved it as much as the boys! I’d say if you want to see a wide range of (non prehistoric) animals, head to another zoo or safari park. Come to Combe for the dinosaurs! (that could be their new strapline, maybe I’ll pitch it to them.)

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Our tips for visiting Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park:

  • Get there early to avoid the queues.
  • Wear sturdy footwear that you can tackle sloping paths in.
  • Take a picnic, there are plenty of places to stop and eat and it saves time and money going to one of the food outlets.
  • Plan your route and your lunch break before you venture into the park. We ended up backtracking up the hill to have our picnic lunch when we were half way around the park trail!
  • At the end of your trip get your allocated driver to retrieve the car and pick you up in the disabled car park next to the gift shop. This is advised by the park staff, as the hill back up to the main car parks is very steep for tired little legs!

If you’re on holiday in the West Country and looking for other ideas, check out our review of Barleymows, and also head to The Down To Earth Parent blog, which is packed with ideas of child friendly parks, pubs, soft play centres, walks and days out!

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Half Way Through The Year…

Ok that’s not strictly true, as we’re more than half way through the year – I’m writing this on July the 31st and we’re about to step into August! However, I intended to write this post back in June, so I’m sticking by my original idea!

It’s now (more than) 6 months since we started creating our new vegetable plot in the orchard area of our garden in Devon, and I think it’s important to do posts like this every so often to reflect on the work we’ve done and how the garden develops throughout the seasons.

We’re no strangers to garden renovation, having created our previous vegetable garden from scratch whilst being filmed for Big Dreams, Small Spaces, but this year we decided to create an allotment style vegetable patch WITH THE HELP OF TWO SMALL BOYS… and trust me when I say, that’s no mean feat!

The Site

We started out with this patch of wasteland, which was apparently once occupied by a greenhouse (we can confirm this by the amount of glass we dug up!)

On the far side of the patch we hit upon a few small pits in the ground (rabbit holes, we assumed) so we extended the area of the allotment to get rid of these. Turns out, they weren’t rabbit holes at all, but a sunken area of land which used to house a drain! The holes are just above where Henry’s standing in the picture below!

Once we’d dug over the area, Richard managed to gather up enough stones that we’d unearthed during the digging to edge the entire patch!

Planting

Then the fun could really begin – planting time! (That’s not strictly true, as we sowed a row of carrots before we even finished digging over the top part of the bed!)

We quickly sowed rows of kohlrabi, little gem lettuce, peas, and a wigwam of runner beans. Every year I declare I’m never growing runner beans again, because we just can’t eat the amount we produce, but Rich always wins me over because he quite rightly says the flowers add colour and interest to a very green space!

Henry liked to wave goodbye to each pea seed as he planted it with his Grandad, and it worked a treat as we had a bumper crop!

As spring has turned into summer it has been a pleasure to watch the boys’ delight every time they run into the orchard to see what has grown!

Harvesting

Then it was time to harvest our first crops, lettuce and carrots!

Then came the peas… and the pods kept coming, and coming, and coming – much to Seb’s delight!

Once the peas had finally finished cropping, we removed the plants and have now replaced them with a few rows of brassicas; cauliflower, red cabbage, spring cabbage and brussels sprouts.

As well as the allotment space, we’ve also planted courgettes and pumpkins in old tractor tyres around the orchard (we dropped a grow bag into each tyre so that the soil isn’t touching the grubby old rubber) potatoes in tubs, and kale and herbs have been interplanted in the front garden borders. Oh wait, we’ve also got several bush tomato plants positioned along the garden walls!

We’re getting courgettes every week, the carrots are nearly done now but we’re hoping a second row will grow sufficiently to keep us going, and we’ve got the kohlrabi, brassicas, runner beans, tomatoes and of course pumpkins yet to come!

Barleymows Farm Shop: The Maize Maze

When we moved to the West Country in October 2018, one of the first things we did was to check out the local farm shop, Barleymows, and become regulars in the shop and the restaurant!

At the time, their annual Maize Maze had just finished for the year, but we soon discovered that this was something to look forward to the following summer! Fast forward 9 months and we’re now season ticket holders for the Maize Maze and play area that opens annually in time for the school summer holidays!

Our boys, who are now nearly 4 (in two weeks time!) and 2 and a half, absolutely love this place! There are so many activities to entertain them, that we can easily spend a whole morning or afternoon there and not run out of things to do!

A zip wire, a haystack slide, ride on tractors, a giant sandpit, trampolines, climbing walls, a skittle alley, a music wall, football shoot out, the list is endless!

The tractor ‘train’ ride was one of the highlights for the boys, Seb was a bit reserved at first but once he saw his big brother have a go, he was queuing up for the next departure!

The star attraction for Barleymow’s summer activities is the Maize Maze, but to be honest I didn’t think my boys would be too interested in this – I was wrong! Once I finally agreed to take two lively preschoolers into a 5ft high sweetcorn field… they had a ball! They both proudly carried a flag that was twice as big as themselves, and we negotiated our way around the series of pathways. We unintentionally turned this into an opportunity to learn our ‘left’ and ‘right’ as I kept shouting out directions as they were deciding on their next move!

This place is just perfect for us this summer, so good that we got a season ticket so we can return again and again! There’s so much to keep the boys entertained that our second visit felt completely different to our first, and there’s plenty to keep us coming back every week during the school holidays!

Barleymows Farm Shop is situated just outside of Chard, which is on the Somerset / Devon / Dorset borders, making it an ideal day out for families on holiday as well as people living locally. The farm shop and restaurant are also definitely worth a visit!

If you are holidaying in the area, you should also check out Forde Abbey!

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A Lavender Garden in Provence, France

We’re taking a step away from our own garden in the West Country to share some images of my Dad’s house and lavender garden, situated in the heart of Provence in France.

I LOVE lavender, as readers of this blog will know… it looks beautiful, it smells incredible, it’s great for wildlife, it’s practical and it’s edible! What’s not to like?

So spending time in my Dad’s garden when we’re on holiday is always a treat for me. The beautiful french country cottage has a garden that’s rich with fruit trees and stunning lavender bushes.

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Vibrant purple Lavender lines the pathways, the driveway and bursts from flower beds at the front of the house, offering a haven for bees and other wildlife.

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The garden is filled with over 25 olive trees, some of which are over 100 years old and still providing a harvest every year. In 2011 we had the great pleasure of being part of the harvest, you can read all about our experience here.

Our outdoor boys loved exploring the garden, picking lavender to make natural playdough when the weather got too hot, and playing hide and seek amongst the olive trees!

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Quick & Easy Lavender Play Dough

When we were on holiday in the South of France recently, the last thing I expected to be doing was googling and pinteresting ideas for indoor activities… but due to a heatwave with unprecedented temperatures of up to 44 degrees, we suddenly found ourselves having to restrict the boys’ outdoor time and come up with some interesting and fun games that could keep them occupied in the shade.

We were very fortunate to be staying at my Dad’s house in Provence, and the garden is filled with lavender at this time of year, so one idea that sprung to mind and would link to our love of the outdoors, was to make lavender play dough. Off to Pinterest I did go, on the hunt for the perfect recipe!

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I found loads of variations on a standard play dough recipe, some more complicated than others, but as this was a bit of a ‘throwaway’ activity just to fill an hour or so during a sweltering afternoon, I didn’t want to spend too much on sophisticated ingredients (I’m looking at you, coconut oil…) so I ended up raiding my Dad’s pantry and rustling up a concoction based vaguely on several recipes I found on Pinterest!

To my surprise and the boys’ delight, it actually worked!

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First, we had a little walk around the garden to collect a few stems of lavender, then once we were back in the shade, I tasked the boys with stripping the tiny blooms off the stalks, while I put the ingredients together.

I used a washing up bowl to mix up our concoction – not very instaworthy, but it did the job! I couldn’t find any food colouring in the supermarket in France (or in my Dad’s pantry) so I was hoping the fresh lavender blooms might colour the play dough a little bit, but unfortunately it remained a chalky beige colour. So I grabbed the remnants of another indoor activity and added a drop of blue, white and red poster paint to the mix. What could possibly go wrong?

Luck was on my side, as my paint experiment worked and turned the play dough a pale purple colour, hurray!

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We scattered in the lavender flowers, gave it a good squeeze, and voila, our own lavender scented play dough!

When we play with Play-Doh at home, the boys have a collection of tools that they use to sculpt their creations, but we didn’t have any props to hand, so I encouraged the boys to experience the feel and smell of the play dough by squishing it and rolling it (they even tasted it, bleargh)

Proceedings soon turned (as they often do in our house) to dinosaurs! We made dinosaur footprints, and Henry covered one in play dough, using the toy as a skeleton for his new play dough dino!

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My boys don’t have the longest attention spans so I hadn’t expected this activity to last longer than 10 minutes, but I was pleasantly surprised that we were occupied with making and playing with our lavender play dough for over an hour! Mum win! They were so engaged in playing with our homemade play dough that I decided to wrap it in cling film so we could play with it again the following day…

Which was my only mistake! It may have been the heat or the random concoction of ingredients, but when I unwrapped it again and gave it to the boys the next day, it had turned into a big sticky gloop that became cemented to their hands within seconds! Whoops! So it’s safe to say this is a ‘throwaway’ activity, quite literally – it’s quick and easy to make but enjoy it while it lasts and dispose of it when you’re done!

Here’s the hotch potch of ingredients I used to make our lavender play dough (when I refer to ‘cups’ I literally used a paper cup, not an official measure!):

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  • Approx 20 heads of lavender, flowers picked
  • 1 cup of flour (recipes call for plain/all purpose flour, but I used some ‘cake’ flour that I found in the pantry and it worked fine!)
  • 1/4 cup of salt
  • 1/2 cup of warm water
  • 2 tbsp oil (I used the cheapest sunflower oil I could find)
  • Drops of white, red and blue paint to create the desired lavender colour

I mixed the flour and salt together in the bowl, then added the warm water and the oil. Once a dough had formed I added the paint and finally the lavender flowers.

The blog posts that I took inspiration from are this one and this one.

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River Cottage Food Fair 2019 & a Throwback to 2009!

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that River Cottage has shaped my adult life: from watching the first episode of the original series I was hooked on Hugh’s story and inspired to grow my own fruit and vegetables, even though I was living in a 4th floor apartment in London at the time!

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Our first visit to a River Cottage event sparked our love of the West Country and has eventually led us to relocate to Devon to create our own ‘good life’.

The second River Cottage handbook has been my bible for preserving produce that we’ve grown, and I have the whole handbook series proudly displayed in my kitchen!

Our most recent visit to River Cottage HQ has been to the 2019 Food Fair, and it was the first opportunity to take our two young boys along with us. It also made us realise that it was almost 10 years since our first visit to the Autumn Fair at Park Farm back in September 2009!

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River Cottage Food Fair 2019

The view that welcomes you as you approach Park Farm is quite breathtaking. Set in a valley of rolling hills on the Dorset/Devon border, the site is truly a hidden gem.

Entering the site we were met with a range of stalls selling local produce and our first purchase was a bottle of chilli oil within minutes of our arrival! We quickly made our way to the ‘farm’ area so the boys could see all the animals (and Mummy had a poke around the polytunnels to pick up some growing tips!)

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By the time we’d greeted and discussed the pigs and chickens, it was getting close to lunchtime so we headed down to the food area to try and avoid the peak time queues. The range of food on offer was huge – not unexpectedly as it is a Food Fair after all – but we were really spoilt for choice! Henry and Rich chose a traditionally made hotdog, whereas Sebastian and I opted for the River Cottage ‘Pot’ Noodles, which were absolutely delicious and prompted me later to dig out the recipe for DIY Pot Noodles in the River Cottage Veg Everyday book to add to our lunchtime menu!

Once we’d eaten we headed to the area that focused on activities for the children, and we weren’t disappointed! The boys headed straight for the ‘sand kitchen’ and sandpit before Henry and I tried our hand at making flags imprinted with wildflowers!

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The boys dressed up in crazy costumes, met the alpacas, had their first donkey ride and the highlight of their day, watched entranced as the BubbleMan filled the air with giant bubbles!

When it was time for us to leave we literally had to drag the boys away, as there was much more than they would have liked to play with and get involved in! We didn’t even get chance to see the pottery workshop, face painting, play art, beeswax candle making, or the traditional games area.

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We were blown away by how many child focused activities were on offer, we had been a little hesitant about taking such young children (aged 2 and 3.5) but if anything it was the opposite – there was so much on offer they didn’t know where to start! There was so much to entertain the boys that I didn’t even get chance to visit the main kitchen gardens… how your priorities change when you have children! I would have loved to take part in the guided tour, but fortunately I have been lucky enough to visit the gardens on previous visits – which links seamlessly on to the next part of this post! (see what I did there…)

Throwback to the River Cottage Autumn Fair 2009

Looking back on the photos from our first visit to River Cottage, it’s easy to see how far the brand and the events have developed and grown! The kitchen gardens were the focus of this event back in 2009, with a single marquee hosting talks from Hugh and friends.

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At the 2009 event we were able to park in the top field and be chauffeured down to the farm by tractor, whereas in 2019 the main parking area was in a field across the main road – however at both events, we never felt crowded or rushed. The River Cottage team have the ability to make any event feel personal, relaxed and even intimate, with no long queues or missed opportunities to take part in the highlights of the day.

Our lasting memory of the 2009 Autumn Fair was seeing so many familiar faces who appeared in the original three River Cottage series. Ray the butcher, John the forager, Joy and Michael the chilli experts, and of course Hugh himself were all part of the early events, quite rightly enjoying their celebrity status! I’d love to read an update about the characters of the original series 20 years on, and find out how River Cottage affected their own lives!

Thank you Hugh and the whole River Cottage team for having such a positive impact on our lives!

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The external links in this article are to our Amazon affiliates programme, meaning we earn a few pennies towards the upkeep of this blog if you buy anything!

Grow One Thing

When we speak to people about our gardening adventures with Henry and Sebastian, they often respond that they’d love to do something similar with their children / grandchildren / pupils / mindees, but they don’t have the time or the knowledge to start a vegetable garden. Our answer is always; start small – just grow one thing! You don’t need to construct raised beds or dig over a whole allotment in order to get little ones interested in gardening, it can be something as simple as growing one plant in a pot in your back yard or windowsill!

The best fruits and vegetables to grow with children are ones that:

  • don’t need a lot of space
  • germinate easily
  • are quick growing (for short attention spans)
  • offer colour and interest (bye bye lettuce)
  • create an activity
  • and most importantly, are tasty!
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With all this in mind, we’ve created a list of vegetables that fit into these criteria and hopefully inspire you to grow one thing with your little ones this year!

Peas

Although they do need a bit of space to grow in, peas are a sure fire winner with children of all ages! Whether they’re started in pots indoors or sown straight into the outdoor growing space, they’ll germinate within a few days and grow pretty quickly, giving you a crop within about 10 weeks of sowing.

Although peas are traditionally grown in the ground, you can plant them in long troughs or even in a length of drainpipe!

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A row of peas will be sufficient for harvesting with young children; let’s be honest, no one grows peas at home to take into the kitchen and cook, they’re all podded and feasted on without even leaving the garden! Podding peas is a great deal of fun for little ones and they’re far more nutritious eaten uncooked!

Peas are pretty easy to grow, they germinate quickly and sprout interesting springy shoots as the flowers appear. You will need to protect your seedlings from pigeons, which you can do very easily by sticking some twigs upright around all the young plants.

Potatoes

Potatoes are perfect for very young toddlers or even older babies to get involved with. They are the first crop that Henry harvested when he was just a year old, and he very quickly grasped the concept and loved finding the potatoes in the soil and placing them in his trug. He also enjoyed putting them back into the soil again, so maybe he didn’t fully get the idea!

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Potatoes are interesting for youngsters as they sprout big bushy leaves, and digging them up at harvest time is like finding hidden treasure! I’d advise growing them in large buckets or grobags rather than in the ground as they don’t take up as much space, and they’re far easier for little ones to discover with very little adult intervention. You can even buy sacks designed especially for growing potatoes which can be placed on a patio or driveway!

Strawberries

Although you can grow strawberries from seed, it’s far quicker and more exciting to buy plug plants and plant them up in containers or a sunny border! If you’re short on space, there’s a great range of vertical planters on the market (please don’t buy a plastic one though!) Garden centres and even supermarkets offer a good selection of plants so they’re very easy to come by for the busiest of mums and dads!

Given good weather conditions, you’ll get a good crop of fruit in the first year of planting and they’ll continue to produce year after year – watch out for ‘runners’ that the plants spring out, as they will spread very quickly into neighbouring areas of the garden!

Strawberries are very appealing to young children, birds, and mice alike, so if you choose to grow these tasty fruits you might need to put some netting over them to protect them from pests!

Carrots

There’s nothing that compares to the look on a child’s face when they pull their first carrot from the ground! Henry was mesmerised when he was let loose on our raised beds at the tender age of 2. our only problem was stopping him pulling too many at once! Carrot soup anyone?!

Carrots aren’t the easiest vegetable on this list to grow, but a bit of time and effort certainly pays off at harvest time! You can grow them in a deep planter, or in a sunny border as long as you dig the soil quite deep, so it’s fairly loose for the roots to form without meeting resistance! If your soil is very compacted or stony, you’ll end up with some weird and wonderful shapes, which will certainly be entertaining, if a little tricky to eat!

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Carrots are generally grown directly into the growing space, and as the seeds are so tiny, they’ll then need thinning out when the green tips appear. This means you remove a few seedlings to give others space to grow. We’d advise not getting the little ones involved in this task, as you’ll probably end up with no plants!

Courgettes

Given a decent summer, courgettes (zucchini) are really easy to grow! The seeds are big and chunky making them easy for little fingers to handle, they germinate quickly and the seedlings throw out big, impressive leaves, and quite quickly start to produce glorious yellow flowers. You can either start the seeds off on a warm windowsill indoors, or wait until May when the weather warms up a little and grow direct outside.

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Each plant will grow up to 2 feet in diameter so you do need some space, but they’re perfect for growing in pots on the patio as long as you water them regularly; apart from that they require very little else! They’re also great for bees, which introduces another element into your gardening experience!

There are tons of courgette varieties that come in all shapes and colours, so don’t just opt for the traditional green variety that we’re used to seeing in supermarkets – vibrant yellow tennis balls are far more appealing to young children!

Kohlrabi

If you’re feeling adventurous and want to wow your little ones, have a go at growing kohlrabi! It’s part of the brassica family and grows as a ‘bulb’ shaped stem with long spiky leaves, with purple and light green varieties available.

Just to see them growing in the garden is fascinating, it looks like an alien spaceship has landed amongst the raised beds! It’s said to taste like a cross between a turnip and a waterchestnut but I’m not sure I agree with that analogy; it’s got a nutty flavour that’s delicious either roasted or raw in salads!

Growing them is relatively easy, if you don’t have any ground space available then a long trough would be ok. You could actually grow them amongst the peas as they’ll still be relatively small plants when they peas are ready for picking – but I digress, we’re talking about growing one thing here, not two! Make sure you pick the kohlrabi when they’re about the size as a tennis ball, as that’s when they taste the best.

Pumpkins

If the ease of growing courgettes appeals to you, then you should also be giving pumpkins a try! Pumpkins are the ULTIMATE vegetable to grow with young children, the giant orange globes are not only exciting to grow, they’re also integral to exciting Halloween celebrations!

However, they take much longer to grow and mature than courgettes do, it can take up to 5 months from sowing to harvesting and they do take up more room as they can trail 6 feet or more. There are ways around this though; they can be trained up sturdy trellises, or you can seek out more compact varieties but be warned, the fruits won’t be as large.

Warning – pumpkins are susceptible to rotting if they’re touching damp soil, so once the fruits form, support them by putting a stone or paving slab underneath each one to raise them off the ground.

Tomatoes

Traditional tomato plants grow best in a greenhouse, and if you have the luxury of one in your garden, then definitely get growing a few plants for your little ones to enjoy! However, if you don’t have a greenhouse at your disposal, many varieties of tomato will grow in outdoor conditions. Cherry tomatoes grow on a ‘bush’ plant rather than the more familiar ‘cordon’, and they grow well in hanging baskets or patio containers.

Cherry tomatoes are also generally sweeter than their larger counterparts. Just be careful that your little ones are supervised when they’re picking and sampling the produce though, as they should be cut in half before being eaten by young children in the same way that grapes are.

We hope that’s given you a spark of inspiration to grow one thing with your little people this year, you don’t have to be an expert to get a decent crop from any of the fruits or vegetables we’ve listed above. As our photos show, every fruit and vegetable we’ve included on this list has been grown at least once by us, with the help of Henry and Sebastian, so we’re speaking from experience!

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Seed packets and plant labels will always come with some instructions of how to grow, but we can highly recommend Alan Titchmarsh’s book ‘The Kitchen Gardener’ it’s a comprehensive guide to growing literally every fruit and vegetable you can think of, and he gives clear and simple tips and guidance for each. Another excellent book, especially if you’re growing in a small space, is Step-By-Step Veg Patch from the RHS, this contains great information about spacing each plant, both in the ground or in a container or grobag which is really useful!

If you want any more ideas or inspiration, visit our Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages!

Happy growing!

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning if you buy a product as a result of clicking through, we’ll earn a few pennies towards the upkeep of this blog!

How to Upcycle a Tractor Tyre in the Garden

I read somewhere recently that farmers have to pay to dispose of old tractor tyres, so they’re always happy for someone to take them off their hands, and immediately my gardening brain started whirring!

Richard texted the farmer next door to us and asked him if he had any tyres going… well… spare, and he immediately texted back and invited him round to take his pick!

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For a few weeks we have been planning to construct a sandpit in the orchard, to keep the boys entertained when they lose interest in helping with the vegetable garden but we want to carry on working in there, and we’ve been looking at various wooden and *shudder* plastic options. But as soon as we knew gigantic tractor tyres were going begging, our problem was solved!

The Delivery

Farmer Mike dropped off a range of tyres for us this morning and we immediately set about transforming the largest one into *The Best Sandpit Ever.

After a quick google, I found that Tesco were selling the cheapest play sand around (2 10kg bags for £4 at the moment, bargain!) so we headed off there to stock up.

The Construction

When we got the tractor tyre in place, we lined the base with an old ton sack that we had kicking around, and then stapled it to the rim of the tyre, so that the sand will be relatively well contained and not escape underneath.

Obviously we didn’t want the staples exposed to small fingers, so we dug out some hessian sacks that we’d bought in the sale at B&Q for 50p a while ago! We laid these over the staples, and we’ve glued them in place but also wrapped some colourful blue rope around them to keep them in place until we’re sure the glue will hold. The hessian gave it a rustic look as well as protecting little fingers!

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The Fun Bit!

Then the fun could begin! With great excitement the boys helped us to empty 12 sacks of sand into the tractor tyre, which was sufficient to get them going but we’re going to nip back tomorrow and get a few more bags, as we’d like the sandpit to be reasonably full so the boys can reach the sand without climbing into the tractor tyre if they want to.

By this time it was nearing 5pm and getting pretty chilly, but the boys had patiently waited and helped with the creation of the sandpit all day, so we let them get stuck in for their first play!

The Result!

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We’re really pleased with the end result, it looks great in the orchard, the boys love it, and it’ll keep them entertained while we crack on with digging over the vegetable patch and later in the season when we’re transplanting, weeding and harvesting!

Keep in touch with us on our Facebook Page, Twitter and Instagram to find out what we’re planning for the other tractor tyres!

*according to Henry

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Starting our Allotment Style Vegetable Plot

Another year, another vegetable garden!

Now we’re living in Devon, we’re getting stuck into creating ourselves a new vegetable garden!

We just have a small front garden at the house we’re living in, but we do also have a little orchard area that’s got lots of potential for growing fruit and vegetables! There’s a bare patch of land that used to house a chicken shed, so we’ve begun to dig that over and turn it into an allotment style veg patch!

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We’ve never grown ‘allotment style’ before, in the past we’ve always created raised beds or just grown from containers if we were short on space, so I’ve had to do a bit of research on the subject! Fortunately, Alan Titchmarsh has come to the rescue once again!

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I always used the growveg.com garden planner to plan what we’re going to grow, I never tend to stick to the initial layout but the online software also generates you a planting plan (or cheat sheet, as I like to call it) which gives you a chart of when to sow and plant all your fruit and vegetables! It makes life so much easier!

We’ve been blessed with amazing weather this weekend, I got a new fork and spade for Mother’s Day, and so it seemed like the perfect time to get stuck in!

The boys alternated between ‘helping’ us by moving rocks and digging, and chasing around on their balance bikes and playing in their ‘campsite’ but by the end of Saturday we’d managed to get most of the patch dug over.

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In true ‘Lee’ style, after surveying the area we’d dug over, we decided it would be a waste not to extend the vegetable patch a bit further up to the grassy banking… so that’s what Sunday’s task was!

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However, keen to start sowing and planting, we focused on the bottom section of the patch, and got it ready for planting so we could sow some carrot seeds and get our growing season underway!

We’ll now continue to dig over the extended patch and adding more rows of seeds and plug plants as we go! Not the most conventional way of setting up a vegetable plot, but that’s how we roll!

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We hope you’ll continue to follow our new adventure in the garden as we get stuck into growing our own fruit and vegetables! For now, we’ll leave you with these images of Sebastian making friends with the garden wildlife!

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Undercover Vegetables

When we began weaning Henry, he ate absolutely everything we put in front of him! Many of the purées we gave him (I wasn’t brave enough to do baby led weaning!) were made with homegrown fruit and vegetables, which progressed to him eating directly from the garden wherever possible!

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Fast forward 3 years and we have a very fussy preschooler, who snubs any veg that isn’t a carrot (I swear he’s turning orange) and any fruit that isn’t grapes. I NEVER thought we’d have a picky eater! Yet here we are.

I was starting to stress about it a little, because no amount of pleading or bribery would get Henry to try anything new, but then we decided to change our approach. We’ve altered a few things like making sure we all eat together as much as possible, and always offering him a range of fruits and vegetables (whether he eats them or not) but one of the main things that’s eased my worries is my ‘veg mix’ concoction!

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Inspired by Pam the Jam’s ‘Souper Mix’ in the River Cottage Preserves Handbook, I throw a mixture of vegetables into my food processor, and blend it until it’s a course paste.

I then freeze this in ice cube trays or small tubs, and I chuck it into every meal I cook! It reminds me a bit of the ‘weaning’ days when I used to batch cook purées!

I add it to shepherd’s pie, bolognese, chilli, sausage rolls (I make my own) even burgers.

It reassures me that Henry’s getting a hit of vegetables in every meal until he does begin to be a bit more experimental with food, and it also makes everything taste a bit better too!

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This little concoction also ties in perfectly with growing your own vegetables, because you can use up your inevitable gluts that appear throughout the season and nothing will go to waste!

Do you have any tips for encouraging a preschooler to eat? Please share them with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!

This post contains a few affiliate links, meaning we’ll earn a few pennies towards the upkeep of the blog from any sales that are generated!

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