With the summer holidays in full swing, we all know it can be tough to find fun and stimulating activities to keep the little ones entertained. There’s no better time to get the kids outdoors and interested in gardening, says landscape gardener Colin Boggon.
My passion for all things horticultural started at a very early age when, at just three or four years old, I’d help my mother – herself a garden designer – around our lovely garden. While I was ever so slightly traumatised when I put a garden fork right through my Wellington boot while digging up some potatoes (just missing my toes, I should add!), my most fond and vivid early memories are of planting up hanging baskets, watering the greenhouse and harvesting from the vegetable garden. When I wonder why I embarked on a career in garden design, it’s these memories I look back upon.
Gardening isn’t just a fun hobby to engage with; research suggests that children with an interest in gardening perform better at school and develop a greater interest in healthy eating if they grow their own food. So why not try these ideas to inspire little greenfingers?
This is probably my most important tip. Don’t pester the kids to help with routine chores like mowing the lawn or weeding – they’ll quickly lose interest. Focus instead on creative and rewarding tasks, like planting colourful and scented flowers in pots and windowboxes. To really get them involved, take a trip to the local garden centre or nursery and let them choose what to plant. Children approach gardening with a completely open mind, so let their creativity run wild!
A space of their own
Give your children complete ownership of their own space in the garden. Don’t fob them off with that shady bit of wasteland at the end of the garden; give them a prime spot that gets plenty of sunshine, has decent soil and isn’t covered in weeds. Don’t worry if space in your garden is limited or you live
in an apartment, sowing seeds into pots on the windowsill is a great place to get started.
Little tools for little people
Buying gardening tools designed specifically for children will make all the difference. Snug-fitting gloves and small hand tools are a must. Adult-sized watering cans are too cumbersome for kids, so find some miniature versions in bright colours instead.
Weird and wonderful
While talking recently to a nurseryman at one of our plant wholesalers, I asked what plants they would suggest for budding gardeners to try growing. He responded immediately: ‘Carnivorous plants, of course!’ He was absolutely right – I don’t think any plant captivates children like the Venus Flytrap, Dionaea muscipula. These natives of the sub-tropical wetlands in the US are easy to grow on a windowsill at home – give them lots of bright light and keep them well watered. Another fantastic plant for kids is the Giant Reed Grass, Arundo donax, which dies back in winter but can grow up to four metres tall in just one season. It’s so vigorous that you can almost see it grow with the naked eye and will quickly tower over the children. Be warned though; this plant is a bit of a monster!
Encouraging children to grow their own fruit and vegetables provides an important education in where our food comes from and how to eat healthily. To keep them interested, focus on sowing seeds that are quick to germinate, like radishes and courgettes. Make sure the kids label their own pots to see whose grows the fastest. And, of course, we all know that nothing tastes better than homegrown strawberries.
Perfect with ice cream on a hot summer’s day!