Sowing the seeds of love
Great ways to get your kids into the wondrous world of gardening
With summer here it’s a great time for families to spend some time together outdoors – and what better place to do this than a garden? There are plenty of fun projects, and what’s more creative than growing something new?
While the weather’s nice, it’s the best time of year to get children interested in this healthy and productive hobby – so here are some suggestions...
Sow some seeds: It might seem a bit late in the growing season but there are some quick seed-to-maturity plants that can be planted directly outside now. You’ll need your seeds, of course, plus a bit of seed compost and some yoghurt cartons or plastic bottles cut in half with a few drainage holes.
Mustard and cress are the most obvious things to grow and they are still the most magical as they’ll pop up within a week. You will only need some wet cotton wool placed in a container to provide the perfect growing environment for the seeds.
Sprinkle them on finely and leave in a warm, light place. Use a stencil to create animals or stars for brilliant seedling shapes.
Nasturtiums have big seeds that are easy to handle and germinate quickly to give colourful flowers in yellow, red and orange. And they’re edible! Meanwhile, Nigella damascena, Love-in-a-Mist, is an old cottage garden favourite that will delight with its combination of ferny foliage and pretty blue flowers. Its easy germination will encourage budding gardeners. Sunflower seeds are perfect for kids because they are amazed that such a massive flower comes from one small seed. Why not organise a family competition to see who can grow the tallest? Cut and come again lettuce is great for children to learn where food comes from while radish is another easy to grow crop which matures fast. If you sow them now, you could be harvesting them in around a month’s time – a simple but rewarding activity for the children. Carrots are another veg that will pique kids’ interest with their multi-coloured produce. They’re quite easy to grow from seed and the likes of ‘Rainbow Mix’ will create yellow, purple and red carrots! Limnanthes is known as the poached egg plant as it has a bright egg yolk-coloured centre on a white background. Easy to grow, it’s good for attracting beneficial insects as well. Pumpkins will provide all you need for the next Halloween. It’s a little late to start sowing these now as you’d normally start them off in April indoors, but as with many other veg and flowering plants, you can cheat by buying small seedlings in the garden centre. They are ready for outdoor planting now.
Succulents and cacti are all the rage at the moment and small plants can be picked up cheaply in lots of stores. Create a mini desert landscape with sand and add features from the toy box such as little cowboys or animals to spark their imagination.
Section off an area of the garden for the children – let them take ownership and responsibility for their own patch. There are plenty of kid-size tools that will help to encourage them and are easier for little hands to use.
To stimulate an interest in gardening, just walk around with them pointing out fun things such as snapdragons, foxgloves, and tactile and soft plants such as stachys.
Get children to close their eyes and identify some of the wonderful smells in the herb garden such as mint, thyme, rosemary, lavender and lemon balm.
Crush Nepeta to release its fragrance, inhale the sweet smell of roses, watch a bee burrow into a flower for nectar and enjoy the delicious chocolate aroma from Cosmos atrosanguineus. Open their eyes to the wonder that is nature and the joy of outdoor life and it will be repaid for years to come.
Working together in the garden is a great way to teach children about the wonders of nature Nasturtiums, bring quick colour and easy to grow