Why you should always grow a wild card :: gardening with kids

Gardening with kids gives them so many opportunities to learn things. There are obvious subject areas such as science and nature studies of course, but there are also life lessons to be learnt. What you grow can teach a lot about your attitude to life – to creativity and challenge and risk taking! Here’s why in amongst the carrots and onions we always grow a wild card.

gardening with kids

Why you should always grow a wild card :: life lessons from the garden

We are excited to have taken on an allotment plot this year, giving so much more space to grow things than just in our tiny city garden. Everyone on the allotment community has been so welcoming and friendly, and it’s impossible to visit and not have a chat with our plot neighbours. One friendly gentleman has been growing there for nearly twenty years, with a lovely established plot. We got chatting and I asked him what he was planning on growing this year and he told me ‘same as always!’ The usual assortment of veg, just as he’d grown every year since he started. Now I’m a great one for tradition, but I think he’s missing out on one of the very best aspects of gardening: growing a wild card!

gardening with kids

Every year we grow the kinds of food we love to eat, things which are especially nice to eat last-minute-freshly-picked from the back garden, and things which are more costly to buy in the supermarket. So, lots of herbs, salads, and more unusual varieties of tomatoes and potatoes. But we always, always also throw in a wild card – something we’ve never grow before.

{definition} wild card :: low-probability, high-impact events

In the gardening world, our wild card is:

:: something we have never tried before

:: something a little unusual

:: something a bit risky

:: something that will have a wow-factor if it does grow well

Last year we grew peppers in our little mini-greenhouse – and just about raised one although it never really ripened in our miserable summer. The year before we tried to grow melon, with even less success!

gardening with kids

This year, given the blessing of extra space at the allotment we’re excited to be trying a pumpkin patch, and our wild card pick is this beautiful Turk’s Turban winter squash (catalogue image and seeds from Thompson and Morgan). Isn’t it gorgeous? Have you ever grown them?

Life lessons from the garden

Growing a wild card with the children – and just for myself – is about much more than a fondness for pumpkins.

:: it’s about being creative – using our existing knowledge and skills to try something different

:: it’s about taking risks – breaking out of a comfort zone and being a bit daring is a lesson gently learned in the garden, that pays dividends as we grow up and head out in to the wide world

:: it’s about celebrating the wonder of nature – embracing the amazing richness that nature {or God or Mother Nature…} offers us and welcoming that into our life

:: it’s about enjoying the process – because we don’t know if our wild card will grow, but we do know we can enjoy picking the variety, planting the seeds, watering the soil, seeing the first leaves appear…..

gardening with kids

So, wish us luck! We planted our seeds last week, and the girls wrote out our seed labels.

gardening with kids

And look what’s popped up this morning.  We’re off to a good start!

More creative ways to use nature to inspire learning

Fill your year with hands-on, creative learning inspired by nature. Click through to see our Garden Classroom resource and get your free Garden Journal.

garden activities for kids cta


  1. says

    Our wild card this year (it’s never been called that before but will be from now on) is corn. We tried jerusalem artichokes one year and they didn’t even sprout. We had some strange squash seeds – I think they may have been acorn squash – that some one gave us last year, they turned out big and delicious. Pumpkins are a bit of a hit and miss with us, some years they are huge and other they just rot.
    Will definitely be doing our pizza (herb) garden again this year.
    Enjoy your allotment.

  2. Tara says

    We have an allotment too, my favourite thing to grow are squashes :) we will start doing this wild card this year!

  3. Shelley says

    We grew Lemon Drop peppers. The nursery didn’t even know anything about them. They look like a cute little tree with tons of tiny yellow peppers. However, they will light your mouth on fire!!! I plan on planting them again and give them away(again).
    Also, some heirloom tomatoes. The Black Prince was delicious, but we only got 1 tomato.

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