Brothers aged just four and two from Hemel grow plants and vegetables to raise money for ZSL Whipsnade Zoo
The family has raised over £300 for the zoo
Two brothers from Hemel Hempstead have been growing plants and vegetables in their garden to raise money for ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.
Four-year-old Douglas and his brother two-year-old Hartley, have been growing cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, sunflowers and veronicas in their garden in Apsley, to raise money for the zoo, which was forced to close three times due to Government restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.
Their mum Sherry Manton wants to share the story of what they got up to during lockdown and how something which started as a hobby has now raised £350 for the zoo.
She said: "We moved into our new house a week into the first lockdown last year and after a couple weeks whilst unpacking boxes in the shed I came across some packets of old seeds.
"I had an unused mini greenhouse my mum bought for me so I said to my son Douglas 'lets plant some seeds!'.
"Our son who was three at the time loved filling the trays with compost with his toy diggers and my one-year-old loved sitting in the middle of the mud which often resulted in me having to strip his clothes off before going back into the house. Thankfully we had a very warm spring!
"We soon filled the greenhouse, kept everything watered regularly and was on constant slug duty.
"During lockdown we bought more and more seeds from our online grocery store and via Facebook we found local companies who would deliver compost - thank you Andrew Aston.
"We grew tomatoes from squeezing cherry tomatoes until they exploded into a pot. Douglas found it fun and fascinating in equal measure.
"We filled our front garden full of cosmos flowers - which grew over 9ft tall - and had so many left over.
"I felt helpless during the pandemic and wanted to help in some way, I couldn't give up my time as I was looking after my boys and my husband was working fulltime from home so I said to Douglas why don't we try and sell them and give money to the zoo which we deeply missed visiting and knowing that as a charity they were no longer able to raise money due to having to close to visitors, we really wanted to help the animals.
"I went on to Facebook and set up a page - Woodland Edge Nursery - and nervously posted.
"We were amazed, we had so many enquiries, good will messages and sold out within a couple of hours and donated a third of each sale to the zoo.
"This was the catalyst, we bought a bigger plastic greenhouse and everything sold out every time.
"My husband saw how we were so delighted with what we had achieved and bought us a full size 'proper' greenhouse which we built and we continued.
"We grew more vegetables, something new to us. All surplus plants we sold adding to the pot for the zoo, and we have now donated over £350 in total.
"Douglas continues to sow seeds, water plants, fill pots, plant up our garden, dig holes and as a result enjoys the fruits of our labour.
"Douglas engages with customers coming to collect plants and enjoys showing them what we are going to sow next.
"We've been helping neighbours with their gardens, swapping seeds for plants, give plants to Douglas' school and we have had so many people say how we inspire them with their children, grandchildren, reignite their love of gardening and even start their interest in gardening.
"There's no doubt it takes a lot of love and nurturing, but it's so worth it.
"Douglas' knowledge astounds me, he asked me 'Mummy is it the right season to sow watermelon seeds?'. Music it to my ears!
"We also go litter picking together and hang home-made bird feeders in the woods near us during the winter. I feel its so important for my sons to be connected and respect nature.
"Our youngest, Hartley is two and loves playing in the greenhouse, especially emptying plant pots and pulling out name tags. I can see it in him and I'm sure he will be planting and sowing soon!
"We have met such lovely people, helping to build a community and my sons are learning so much too."
Douglas has been growing a wide variety of vegetables and flowers including cosmos, cucumbers, chillies, peppers, courgettes, cucumbers, beans, tomatoes, aubergines, carrots, parsnips, garlic, lettuce, spinach, pansies, lupins, foxgloves, Sunflowers, dahlias, veronicas, marigolds, cornflowers and aquilegias.
His favourite vegetable that he has grown is a cucumber. He said: "I like digging the most, and making the garden look beautiful and helping to feed the animals."