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No. 41 Help a plant grow

Family planting seeds in flower pots, Mottisfont, Hampshire
Family planting seeds in flower pots, Mottisfont | © National Trust Images/Megan Taylor

Help a plant to grow is no. 41 on our list of ‘50 things to do before you’re 11¾’, and it is a challenge that'll take a bit of time. You can't complete it in a day, or even two, as plants take time to grow, but it's worth the wait. Follow these tips for success.

The joy of gardening

Gardening is a hobby that can last a lifetime; it can be such a fun and fulfilling pastime. You’ll gain plenty of new skills and a lot of planting wisdom as you progress.

Part of the enjoyment is seeing what you’ve planted growing into something beautiful (or edible). The other part is the pleasure of caring for another living thing and helping it to thrive. You can even grow your own fruit, vegetables or herbs.

What do you want to grow?

First of all, think about what you want to grow. Do you want something that you can eat? Or would you prefer a plant that looks interesting at different times of the year? Do you want sweet-smelling flowers or interesting seed heads?

Easy-to-grow fruit and veggies

We think strawberries are one of the easiest and tastiest things to grow. Or you could think about herbs like basil (which goes well with nearly every pasta or pizza dish), rosemary or thyme.

Or you could try your hand at veggies – peas or cress are easy to look after, or tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, parsnips or salad leaves. The list is endless really, so it's pretty much down to you and what you fancy eating, and what time of year it is.

Remember that whatever you have chosen will take a while to grow, so you usually won't be eating it for at least a month after you've planted it.

A child using secateurs in the Kitchen Garden at Osterley Park in London
'Help a plant to grow' is no. 41 on the '50 Things' list | © National Trust Images/Rob Stothard

If you don’t have a garden

Don’t worry, there are lots of places you can grow plants even if you don't have a garden or outside space.

A sunny window sill is a good place to grow things. Try planting lettuce seeds in pots or trays. There are lots of colourful varieties to choose from and once big enough, you can pick off leaves and add them to a meal.

You could plant single sunflower seeds in pots on a sunny window sill, or grow an avocado plant in an old jam jar? There are lots of things to try.

You might be allowed to sow something in the cracks of an old wall. Aubretia is a beautiful purple plant that loves to live in the cracks of walls and paths, and it self-seeds very easily.

What time of the year?

Although spring and especially summer are often the most exciting times to watch and care for your plant, don’t forget to nurture it the whole year round. Some plants and trees have wonderfully coloured branches in the winter time - perhaps they’re even more beautiful than the plant in full leaf. You decide.

Top tips

  • Plant seasonally - make sure you plant the right thing at the right time of year. Some plants will only grow at certain times of the year.
  • Make sure you've got the right equipment. You don't need to go out and buy loads to start growing your own produce. You can make plant pots out of newspaper, but you will need compost or soil and space to put your pots.
  • If you've bought seeds, follow the instructions on the packet about the types of soil, temperatures and how deep to plant the seeds.
  • Watering your plant is very important to help it grow, so try and remember. In hotter months, you might need to water every day.
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