National Children’s Gardening Week 26th May – 3rd June 2018
Lots of interest in the garden for children; so make a start this week
In this increasingly technological world children are becoming removed from the natural world and from where their food comes which makes introducing them to gardening an important part of their life experience. A lot of research has been done on the benefits of gardening for children and they include exercise, respect for the natural environment, learning to work as a team, aiding concentration and as a learning resource for such subjects as maths, biology, art and science and as an added bonus they can learn to cook what they grow. Also children who are not particularly academic often find that they have a talent for gardening. A garden is also an important habitat for our ever dwindling wildlife, such as bees, hedgehogs and garden birds, and it is so easy to incorporate food and habitat for these species.
In this National Children’s Gardening Week the garden industry up and down the country will be hosting events designed to raise awareness and hopefully a life-long interest in gardening. The National Garden Gift Cards and vouchers have teamed up with the Greenfingers Charity who design and build magical gardens in hospices where seriously ill children and their families can just relax and play away from the hospital bed in the fresh air in beautiful surroundings. From March 2018 1% of the HTA (Horticultural Trade Association) commission on these vouchers will be donated to Greenfingers and customers will also be asked if they would like to make an additional 50p contribution.
Tips for keeping the children interested
- Start by trying to be enthusiastic about the things children love; bugs, gruesome plants and anything where they can get mucky. If you have the space give them a little plot or get some fun containers to plant, such as old wellies. Children are more likely to become engaged with gardening if they are growing something they want to grow not what grown-ups think they should be growing!
- Giant sunflowers go down well, especially when they grow higher than the children. A good variety is Russian Giant, but needs growing against a wall or fence as it will need quite a bit of support; watch the video to see how easy it is to sow sunflower seeds. It is best grown in the garden as it doesn’t reach its full potential in a container. Sow an annual flower seed mixture so children can pick the flowers; there are lots of different mixtures available in the garden centre.
- Small children sized vegetables are available as seeds in most garden centres. Cucumbers, radish, cherry tomatoes, carrots, salad potatoes and pumpkins are all good starter vegetables. There are small pumpkins available which can be hollowed out and made into bird feeders or pushed into a hedge for a birdhouse. Large pumpkins can be grown, if you have the space, and carved out at Halloween. Try growing funky coloured vegetables; purple beans and carrots, yellow beetroot or tomatoes.
- Strawberries are a good crop to grow as children can pick and eat them straight off the plant, they can be grown either in the garden or in pots. Alpine strawberries are tiny and delicious.
- In winter when the weather is too bad for outdoor gardening then turn to growing plants indoors. There is a range of carnivorous plants which a child can grow on a windowsill and tend in winter when there is nothing doing in the garden. These are plants which catch and eat insects so will appeal to the gruesome in children. Also try growing some salad leaves; these need a south facing, warm windowsill in winter as they need all the light they can get. Grow quick germinating seeds, such as cress and micro herbs, on damp kitchen paper on a sunny windowsill. Peas and beans can also be germinated on damp kitchen paper then transplanted into pots when they have some roots and two pairs of leaves.
- Winter is also the time for making a garden in a tray from things collected on a walk in the countryside.
- Encouraging wildlife into the garden is also great for encouraging kids to go outside. Buy a cheap magnifying glass and go bug hunting, when they find bugs they like you can put in plants which that insect finds attractive, or make a bug house. A pile of logs will provide a home for a whole host of bugs. There is quite a large selection of insect houses for sale in most garden centres if you are DIY challenged!
- Make a hedgehog house out of cardboard boxes; use a large one for its home and a smaller one for a tunnel entrance. Cover it with plastic, to keep the hedgehogs dry, then place the little house in a shady, quiet spot in the garden and cover it with leaves, twigs and moss.
- Put up a bird feeding station to encourage the little birds which will in turn eat any aphids and keep your plants bug free.
- Plant nectar rich flowers to attract bees and maybe get a local beekeeper to keep a hive on your plot.
- Make some bunting or flags to hang around the patch to mark it out as the children’s garden.
- Make a scarecrow to stop the larger birds pulling out young seedlings.
- Buy some cheap wooden edging and let the children paint it in bright colours to separate their garden from the grown-ups space.
Keep an eye on our facebook page for events in the garden centre over the week of 26th May to 3rd June.
We have lots of events happening in the garden centre; just click here to see what's going on.