Garden notes: child’s play
Want to turn your children into green thumbs? Make gardening an exciting adventure, writes Jackie French.
Gardening is fun, especially for children. Here are my school holiday temptations to lure your kids away from their screens and into the garden.
Grow an elephant in the backyard (start small!)
Topiary is the art of shaping bushes into neat or fascinating shapes. Sometimes it takes years, but if you use a fast-growing bush you’ll have an elephant… or horse... or dinosaur… or elegant triangle… within six months.
Props needed: A fast-growing shrub like a small potted photinia or dwarf lillypilly. A favourite topiary shape. Hunt out a supplier online. There will be hundreds of shapes to choose from.
Method: Plant the shrub in the ground or a large pot. Fit the shape over it. Every time a leaf or twig pokes out beyond the wire shape, cut it off.
Keep trimming. It’s that easy!
Props needed: 6 tall tomato stakes. 6 large pots filled with potting mix. 18 climbing bean seeds. 1 hammer. Water, kids and a garden.
Method: Plant three seeds in each pot. Water each day till seedlings emerge. Show the kids how to hammer the stakes in on an angle so their tops meet in the middle. Place a pot by each stake and over the next 2-3 weeks twine the beans up the poles.
Result: A green teepee cave, a cubby where you can reach up and crunch the beans.
Plant ‘Hello, Grandma’, a map of New Zealand or a drawing of a dinosaur
Props needed: An empty garden bed or one dug in the lawn (but they should ask permission first).
Seedlings: Alyssum, pansies and petunias will grow fast, but there are lots to choose from. Avoid “spreading petunias” that will sprawl all over the garden.
Method: Mark out the words, map or dinosaur on ground. Plant the seedlings. Water well, and then feed according to directions on the packet. Wait! In two or three weeks during summer, the words or shape should be clear, and in six weeks they will look wonderful!
Personalise their fruit and vegetables
Props needed: A fruiting tomato, zucchini or apple. Brown paper, scissors and duct tape.
Method: Write the child’s name in running writing in big fat letters on brown paper. Cut it out carefully.
Use the transparent sticky tape to tape it firmly across the fruit.
As the fruit or veg ripens, their name will stay green underneath the paper. When it’s ripe pick it, pull off tape and paper – and you have an individualised piece of fruit ready for them to show off on the first day of school.