painted pot with succulent plant
Angela Slater
Daughter of a farmer and market gardener so have always had a connection with the outdoors, whether it was keeping animals or producing fruit, vegetables and cut flowers. Along with my work at Hayes Garden World I also have a smallholding, mainly breeding rare breed pigs. I gained an HND and BSc in Conservation and Environmental Land Management, as a result I am an ardent environmentalist and have a keen interest in environmentally friendly gardening. In my time at Hayes I worked for several years in the Outdoor Plant and Houseplant areas

Indoor gardening with children

Stuck for ideas of what do do with a bored little one?

There is much said in the press and on social media about children not getting enough exercise and spending too much time on devices. There are ways of engaging children with the natural world when the weather is too bad to go outside, without relying on electronic devices. Plenty of child friendly plants can be grown indoors on a sunny windowsill. Some projects just involve sowing seed in seed compost in a seed tray, but others include a craft element too. Once you’ve sown your seeds place on a warm, sunny light windowsill. Don’t over water otherwise they will rot. Instead of buying seed trays recycle the plastic trays and pots you buy fruit and yogurt in from the supermarket, just poke a couple of holes in the bottom for drainage.

Seed sowing projects

  • Sow micro herbs; in a few days you’ll be able to eat the result.
Micro greens
  • Sow vegetable seeds in spring which can be transplanted into the veg patch later in the season. Radish, salad leaves, peas and beans are all easy to grow.
  • Sow annual flower seeds to plant out once the weather has improved in spring and early summer; try marigolds, calendulas, nasturtiums, sweet alyssum and zinnias.
  • Sow a single sunflower seed in a yogurt pot then have a ‘tallest sunflower’ competition.
  • Grow peas and beans on damp kitchen paper and watch the roots emerge from the seed.
  • Grow a vine from a sweet potato. Insert 3 cocktail sticks at right angles to the potato about a third of the way down. Balance the potato on the cocktail sticks over a jar of water with the bottom half of the potato submerged in the water. Once it has put out some strong shoots and developed roots it can be planted in a large pot filled with potting compost.
  • Sow several different sizes of seed and watch which ones come through first then measure how they grow.
  • Make seed bombs to plant outside in spring. Add a little water to some seed compost until it can form balls and then add a wildflower mixture.

Seed sowing and craft projects

  • Grow cress in half an eggshell. Paint a face on the eggshell before sowing the seed. Prick a hole in the base of the shell and place a small piece of kitchen paper inside the shell over the hole then fill two thirds with seed compost.
Salad cress

Planting projects

  • Place celery roots or carrot tops in a saucer of water, place them on the sunny windowsill and watch them grow. Once the celery has grown more leaves it can be planted in potting compost and placed outside.
  • Grow herbs on the kitchen windowsill for a sensory experience, which have totally different smells. Thyme, mint, chives, oregano, basil and sage are all easy to grow and you can also use them in your cooking.
Herb plant display at Hayes Garden World

Garden making projects

Cacti & succulant garden
  • Make a garden on an old tray. Put a thin layer of compost over the bottom. To create the lawn use moss or sow cress seeds in the soil. Make your own flowers and vegetables from coloured paper or painted cotton wool. Ice lolly sticks can be used to make a garden shed, fence and garden benches.
  • Make a fairy garden; read the blog and watch the video explaining how to do this.
  • Make a terrarium out of a large glass jar. Place some washed gravel in the bottom then top with potting or houseplant compost. Most houseplant departments in the garden centre will have small suitable plants. If you want a low maintenance terrarium, plant with succulents or cacti, but beware of the spines.

Craft projects

  • Keep a garden scrapbook with all your favourite pictures of gardens, plants, furniture, ponds, fountains, fire pits, barbecues, ornaments and anything else you would like in your ideal garden.
  • Create a collage garden, use backing wallpaper, you get a long roll for very little money. Cut pictures from seed catalogues and gardening magazines and intersperse them with a painted element.
  • Paint a clay pot then plant up with a houseplant. Wash the pot first in warm soapy water, rinse, allow to dry then paint with a water based acrylic paint.
  • Make a bug box out of a 4ltr ice-cream tub. Cut off the bottom, discard the top, then pack it with cut lengths of hollow bamboo canes, scrunched up paper and straw or hay. Place in a shady corner of the garden or hang from a tree.
  • Make plant labels from ice lolly sticks or strips cut from a plastic pot and painted with acrylic paint.
  • Collect smooth oval stones and paint them to look like ladybirds or place several green ones in a row to form a caterpillar, paint a face on the end stone and stick 2 small twigs on the top for antenna.
  • Collect lots of different shapes of seeds in autumn and make them into pictures.

If these projects don’t appeal to your little ones you can always wrap up well, don the waterproofs and wellies and go outside to jump in puddles!