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Give peas a chance, at least for the children

MY parents are keen gardeners and I grew up surrounded by beautiful plants and flowers. I can't remember a time when I didn't know my cyclamen from my snapdragons and have fond memories of deadheading the pansies – less so, pulling weeds – in the summer sun.

We had fruit trees, too; most notably a climbing cherry tree that bore ripe juicy fruit every summer and our little strawberry bed was the source of much seasonal pleasure.

My house has a much smaller garden than my parents' home and it's fair to say myself and my husband are more of the fair-weather gardening types. We planted a pretty collection of purple and white flowers when we moved in and, when in full bloom and nicely weeded, they look beautiful.



However, we don't always keep on top of the weeding and have let the lavender run riot in our little border. Nevertheless, it's never too late to convert a patch of grass into something far more exciting and, now that the kids are a little older, it seems like a more viable option.

A few months ago my husband arrived home laden down with an impromptu purchase: a wooden growing box kit, bag of soil and all kinds of tasty seeds to sow. Up until then we'd done very little with our back garden, aside from taking a large chunk out of it to extend our house.

Enlisting the help of the kids, he planted carrot, scallion, pea and rocket seeds and a few blackcurrant and raspberry canes.

If you've never grown anything with your children, you'd be amazed at the interest they show. Kids love mucking about with pint-sized gardening tools, the watering can being the most prized possession. Each day, without fail, my kids trot out to monitor the progress of their seedlings. They were thrilled to see the first shoots peeping through and are now anxious for something edible to appear.

There are many reasons growing food is a cool thing to do, not least because it's food for free.

While our little patch won't exactly keep the wolf from the door, it's a brilliant way for children to learn that carrots don't simply come from a shelf in the supermarket. Once a child witnesses the lifecycle of a carrot or pea they'll be less likely to leave it on their plate uneaten.



While it may not spell the end of a fussy eater, your little carrot hater is far more likely to try their home-grown veg rather than the one from the supermarket bag.

The Grow It Yourself Movement has over 100 groups nationwide (www.giyinternational.org) offering support and sharing advice and tips.

Despite our limited space the vegetable patch is coming along nicely. Nevertheless, we'll be taking the kids to Bloom next weekend, where the dedicated GIY area will be one of the highlights at the fantastic family-friendly garden festival.

If every home had a little vegetable patch – even a hobby one like ours – I wonder would childhood obesity be such an issue in Ireland?

Bloom, May 30 to June 3, Phoenix Park, Dublin. www.bloominthepark.com