En­joy­ing a garden with your child

Chil­dren are never too young to learn to ex­pe­ri­ence the joy of gar­den­ing and watch­ing plants de­velop

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

which will pay off when they be­gin to read and they must be able to tell the dif­fer­ences be­tween say an “e” and “c”.

Although th­ese chil­dren can­not tell likes and dif­fer­ences yet, the more ex­pe­ri­ence they have ex­plor­ing, the eas­ier that will come.

Stage 2 (18 months-5 years): A child learns a great deal about its im­me­di­ate en­vi­ron­ment dur­ing this stage. In this era, ex­per­i­ment in the garden with the con­cept of taste, but be very care­ful that what your child puts into her mouth is safe to taste.

Let your child taste many things such as lemon juice from an ac­tual lemon (sour), nec­tar from the hon­ey­suckle flower (sweet), and aloe sap from the leaves (bit­ter).

Your child should know that a lot of plant parts are eaten in ab­so­lute safety, such as let­tuce leaves, to­mato fruit, nas­tur­tium leaves and pansy petals, but stress that she must check with you first be­fore she tries to eat any plant be­cause some plants are poi­sonous – such as all parts of the in­va­sive oleander.

Stage 3 (5-7 years): A child be­gins to group things and can now recog­nise the prop­er­ties of ob­jects dur­ing this era. The con­cept of taste can be taken fur­ther as nearly all our food starts from a plant grow­ing in the soil.

To­day we tend to eat too fast and do not really ex­pe­ri­ence the true taste of the food. Taste can ac­tu­ally em­brace all the other senses.

Young chil­dren love to bake good­ies and we can start this from an early age, mak­ing them aware of where the ba­sic in­gre­di­ents orig­i­nate. If you are cook­ing bis­cuits, dis­cuss with your child where the sugar (sugar cane), co­conut (co­conut palm), flour (wheat), oats and co­coa (co­coa tree) come from, and where and how th­ese plants grow.

Stage 4 (7-13 years): By the age of seven, chil­dren can imag­ine classes and se­ries in their minds with­out hav­ing to work it all out in ac­tion. Hav­ing scoped and scanned

Recog­nise Na­tional Water Week (which ends to­mor­row) and help con­serve water by col­lect­ing rain­wa­ter off roofs and chan­nelling into tanks. In­stead of let­ting rain and stormwa­ter dis­ap­pear into storm drains, mulch the soil to en­cour­age it to soak into the ground.

Make use of low-ly­ing ar­eas in the land­scape to col­lect run-off, and pro­vide a place for mois­ture-lov­ing plants such as arums and tree ferns. If the area is large enough, this could be made into a pond.

Al­low water to soak into the soil and pro­vide ad­di­tional plant­ing space by ter­rac­ing steep banks. Aga­pan­thus their en­vi­ron­ment, they can now get down to the do­ing of gar­den­ing.

Plant­ing is cen­tral to a child’s devel­op­ment dur­ing th­ese years. Win­ter-flow­er­ing seedlings, such as pan­sies – which are not only ed­i­ble but also colour­ful, are ideal for plant­ing over the hol­i­day week­end.

Help chil­dren to choose a suit­able site which is not too big in the garden. Let them dig the soil over to about 25cm, add a bag of com­post to ev­ery two square me­tres of soil, and water this very well.

To choose which plants your child will put in the garden, take them to the lo­cal nurs­ery and spend some time view­ing the va­ri­eties. Show your child the dif­fer­ent la­bels in the seedling trays, and help him/her to un­der­stand the codes.

Back at home, water the seedling tray well be­fore plant­ing. Make a hole in your bed big enough to hold a seedling plug. Care­fully re­move the plug from the tray by push­ing up the base if it is plas­tic, or turn­ing the tray up­side down and gen­tly tap­ping it if it is poly­styrene.

Show the chil­dren how to firm the plant in the ground with their fin­gers, and let them water the soil thor­oughly and reg­u­larly ac­cord­ing to the needs of the plants.

Grow­ing and nur­tur­ing plants in the garden will give chil­dren an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for na­ture. They will learn, by as­so­ci­a­tion, that forests take decades to grow, and that undis­turbed kloofs filled with pools of water and tree ferns are very spe­cial.

Plant­ing up pan­sies in the garden this week­end could be the be­gin­ning of a life-long jour­ney for your chil­dren.

An early un­der­stand­ing of na­ture is noth­ing short of a gift. mod­i­fied to store nu­tri­ents and water, and to re­duce mois­ture loss. Some have leaves with a small sur­face area, while oth­ers have a waxy cov­er­ing or a coat­ing of fine hairs. The elephant bush spekboom ( Por­tu­lacaria afra) is a 2-3m shrub of un­usual shape, with suc­cu­lent stems and leaves, and pink flow­ers in early sum­mer. It is grown as an at­trac­tive screen or hedge in arid gar­dens.

With their strik­ing form and nar­row leaves, yucca, cordy­line and phormium are use­ful in dry land­scapes as ac­cent plants among large rocks, in peb­ble or gravel mulch, or as a con­trast with plants of rounded shape.

SANDS OF TIME: A tepee de­signed over a sand­pit, sur­rounded by pun­gently scented sum­mer-flow­er­ing marigolds is the ul­ti­mate child’s garden.

FUN IN THE SUN: A jun­gle gym which in­cludes a web of ropes over an imag­i­nary river pro­vides older chil­dren with a glo­ri­ous early out­door ex­pe­ri­ence.

MAGIC MO­MENTS: Link­ing sto­ries in books to the magic of a garden.

SUN SCREEN: In­cor­po­rate chil­dren’s play ar­eas into your garden de­sign.

PRETTY PANSY: Plant up a pansy this week­end.

Arc­to­tis Sun­set Ra­di­ance

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