Tomorrow’s gardeners

Gardening is so much more than just providing food and flowers. It’s where children learn to appreciate and explore the natural world. Some of life’s best lessons are all there, patience, nurturing and curiosity, plus it’s a great way to spend quality time with your kids.

Many of you can probably fondly recall gardening with a parent or grandparent. Quiet summer evenings or long weekends when you worked, talked, listened and bonded.

All you need to create these memories for your kids is all right there in your own backyard, along with fresh air, trees to climb, worms to dig and forts to build.

Encouraging taste buds to enjoy fresh rather than processed, starts early and evidence supports the theory that if you grow it, you will eat it. When choosing what vegetable to grow, start with one they like and then challenge them to pick one they don’t. Choose bigger seeds for little hands, peas, beans, broad beans, they are pretty fail safe as well. Pumpkins and sunflowers are also easy to grow, add a growth chart to measure progress and get some competition going.

It doesn’t always need to be about you providing a new activity though. Get creative with the jobs that need doing, make them fun, there is a job for every age and temperament. It burns energy of the active child and provides bugs for the budding scientist. There is always plenty of digging for the amateurarcheologist and for the imaginative child there is magic out there!

Get them a set of their own hand trowel and fork, although there are children’s toys out there, the adult versions tend to last longer. The transplanting trowel has as narrower head, making it a little easier for small hands. Decorate or mark them differently for each child.

Compost bins are a great lesson in recycling. If your children are lucky enough to go to a school that has a gardening programme, then build on it at home.

Keep everyone safe, make sure all chemicals are stored up high this includes all mixing equipment. Seeds, seed pods and berries are all very attractive to children, teach them what is dangerous, if you are in doubt - remove it. If poisoning does occur, call medical attention or the NATIONAL POISON CENTRE 0800 764 766. In the case of chemical poisoning read the first aid instructions on back of the bottle and call for medical attention.

Sunflower and Bean Summer Fort

For a lovely shady place to play in the summer you can’t beat a fort. Build this one and you can have runner beans as well! You will need:

  • Giant Russian sunflower seeds
  • Climbing beans - any variety as long as they climb
  • Compost
  • Stakes

Find a sunny spot, mark out a reasonable sized circular shape, as big as you need to fit a few kids in leaving a gap for a door. Now dig a trench around the circle, approx 50cm wide. This is the seed bed for the sunflower and bean seeds so prepare as normal, add some compost to the soil as you turn it over. Plant the sunflower seeds first, let them get to about half a metre in height before you plant the runner beans. The sunflowers will now act as support for the beans. Water well, stake if necessary then enjoy. If you don’t want to plant beans, use dwarf sunflowers instead.

Rainbow Garden

Plant a rainbow, if you are stuck on the colour order remember the old saying – ROY G BIV. Each letter stands for the colours of the rainbow in order – Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet. Blue, violet and indigo are hard to distinguish so you could merge them. You will need:

  • Coloured ribbon to match the colours or string
  • Small wooden or bamboo sticks
  • Seeds or annuals - make sure they are flowering within the same time period

Choose a sunny spot or use an empty raised bed. Dig compost through the soil to prepare for planting. Mark out the rainbow with the sticks and coloured ribbon. If you don’t have room for a traditional rainbow, make a shape to fit. Wrap the ribbon around each marker stick as you go, tying off on the last stake. Plant your seeds or annuals and put a pot of “gold” at the end of the rainbow once they are flowering!