‘When the apocalypse comes, I like to think my kids could trade their tomatoes for medicine’

‘When the apocalypse comes, I like to think my kids could trade their tomatoes for medicine’
Finn and Scott Read with plants they helped their mum Esther plant. Scott holds his favourite, mint!

Gardening with children is fun but don’t believe all you see on social media, says Esther N McCarthy.

If social media is to be believed, parenting during lockdown was a slow-mo montage of apron-clad mothers throwing their head back in delight as a pigtailed angel with a smidge of flour on her nose put the finishing touches on their third banana bread batch.

Afterwards, they converse in fluent, recently-acquired Mandarin, whilst cutting fresh flowers from their meadow, which they arrange prettily in a clay vase, fired in their homemade kiln that very morning.

They placed it on their upcycled coffee table, which they move out of the way for their afternoon yoga session, wearing coordinating organic T-shirts from Sweden.

Luckily, I’ve made a conscious decision to believe nothing I see on social media.

It just makes for a more relaxed lockdown. But I did try to get my three sons, Culann, age 11, Finn, age 8, and Scott, age 5, a bit interested in gardening and growing things.

For when the apocalypse does come and we are all scrambling for survival in the smoking remains of a tattered society, the thought that they could perhaps trade a bag of their homegrown tomatoes for some essential medicines is a small comfort.

One thing that kicked it off for us was Finn’s wonderful teacher, Iníon Ní Choileáin, sending a letter to him with some sunflower seeds inside.

Plopping them in a little pot and getting such fast results is very encouraging — we checked every morning as the first shoots came out of hiding.

A few perished but we now have one that’s taller than him and he gets a great kick out of that.

As we couldn’t really get out, we did some thrifty potting.

We scraped the seeds out of cherry tomatoes and planted them, we have a few good looking plants now.

We chopped the sprouting spider plants off and repotted them, they’re all flying and so easy to maintain.

I had some random seeds from last year, our friend Olive in Dripsey Fresh Farm Veg gave us.

We threw them into pots to see what would happen, we got some creeping nasturtium, lofty poppies (that I tried to repot so only a few survived, they don’t like being moved, apparently, the lockdown louts of the plant world) and some kind of climber that I’m waiting to flower to see what happens.

We also threw some potatoes in tyres and they seem to be thriving.

We’ll wait and see if we get the lurgy after boiling them up.

I stuck a potted rose plant that cost under a fiver last year into the ground near the wall and now it’s climbing mad and attracting furry bees.

Plants Esther and her sons planted, tall avocado at the back.
Plants Esther and her sons planted, tall avocado at the back.

I did bury some banana skins in around the base, I read somewhere the potassium is good for roses.

Chives from last year have popped up, so did a rocket plant I thought was mangled by the mower.

The mint from last year started coming up again so we pulled some of that out and repotted it.

The five-year-old brings his plant around everywhere with him.

LOOK AT MY MINT, he’ll say every now and then, to no-one in particular.

It didn’t last long as he had it all ate by bedtime, but the fabulous thing about mint is, like revolving taoisigh and Terminators, it’ll be back.

We snapped bits off random plants around the house and replanted them, with minimum finesse and care, I assure you — geraniums, wandering jew, sedum, devil’s ivy, Christmas cactus and spider plants, they all are surviving.

So, I guess what I’m saying is just try it, it’s fun and it’s messy for the kids, it kills some time and you’ll hopefully end up with some nice greenery.

You can do a little window box or a patch in the garden, you don’t need much space.

The three boys have all brought plants up to the bedrooms. The air quality will improve, so I ain’t complaining.

‘When the apocalypse comes, I like to think my kids could trade their tomatoes for medicine’

Anyone who’s had the misfortune to inhale three boys’ sock sweat, give me a virtual high five.

One thing I want you to try this weekend, if you’ve any avocados in the house – keep the kernel.

We planted avocados just for the laugh, cos that’s the kind of kerrrayzee gang we are, and it’s been a revelation.

We gotta get our kicks where we can these days.

Scott is mad for avocados and while the husband wrings his hands and worries about the carbon footprint, I assuage my guilt by popping them in pots and watching them curl upwards.

I do nothing other than wash the pits and stick them in some soil in a pot, it isn’t even fancy soil, it’s from the garden.

The only magic ingredient it might have is some cat urine. They just grow mad, and fast, it’s so cool to see them stretch up.

Scott is weak, I haven’t broken it to him yet that it could take 15 years for one to bear fruit.

Avocado sandwich at the grads, love. Something to look forward to.

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