Gardening with kids

I am the first to admit that I am not in the least bit green fingered. In the last ten years of marriage the furthest I ventured out into the garden was sitting on the decking with a drink in hand, on a hot summer’s day. This is much to the disappointment of my husband who has constantly badgered me to take an interest in the development of our garden. But try as I might, when he would talk to me about the amazing growth of his Cosmos, my eyes would glaze over with boredom.

However, when we were miraculously blessed with a warm spring day this year I ventured outside, and to my surprise, I found myself quite enjoying the feeling of accomplishment gardening gives. My young children joined me, and it made such a change from the indoors. I looked into the benefits of gardening with children and found a whole host of them. Aside from releasing the feel-good hormone, serotonin, it teaches children patience, responsibility and gives them the pleasure of watching their hard work grow. For adults and children alike, it is said to build strength, relieve stress and improve confidence. It also teaches children, in an interactive way, environmental awareness and the nature of the food chain.

It was a great bonding activity that we could all do together and something that kept my toddler busy as well as my older son. This spring we decided that we will focus on our garden together and it led me to look for a little advice on how best to do this.

Make it fun

Most kids love a craft project. And you can inject all sorts of craft into gardening. It does not have to cost much, and you can usually utilise materials that you already have in your house. Fairy gardens are very popular with children. First find your container. Containers can be anything from a flowerpot to a wheelbarrow. Fill with potting soil, pebbles, twigs, glass marbles or anything that gives it an earthy feel. Pick suitable plants and props such as little toadstools, fairies and miniature doors. The great thing about these are they are hugely adaptable. Go with a prehistoric theme for dinosaur lovers or a beach theme for those that are happiest at the seaside. Pinterest has hundreds of craft ideas for those that want to add an extra element of fun to gardening.

What to Grow

Decide on some easy to look after, plants and vegetables to begin with. Just ensure that you are growing them in the right season. Gardening experts recommend plants such as Primrose, Forget-me-not and Lavender for children.  Sowing seeds like tomatoes, runner beans and strawberries are easy to plant and maintain. Regular watering, a well-drained soil and sunlight are almost all these plants need. The added bonus of growing vegetables is that you can eat your hard work at the end. Who knows, it might even encourage a reluctant fruit or veggie eater?

Bug Hotels are also a fantastic creation for those insect lovers. Using bamboo canes, moss, dry grass, sand and other materials, you can create your own bug paradise in your garden and children will love seeing what has taken up residence.

What to plant and when?

As seasons change, so do the right plants and vegetables. This is a very simple guide at what is best to grow in different seasons:

  • Winter – Raspberries, Broad Beans, Onions, Beetroot, Peas, Cosmos (indoor)
  • Spring – Tomatoes, Potatoes, Cucumber, Nasturtium, Marigolds
  • Summer – Runner Beans, Lettuce, Sunflowers, Fuchsias
  • Autumn- Spinach, Carrots, Sweet Peas

As we enter the warmer months gardening can be a great way of getting children outdoors and discovering a new passion as a family. Full of benefits and a fantastic bonding experience for all ages, I think I may just be a convert!

Karen Olney

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