Gardening with children

From a small seed a mighty trunk may grow. Aeschylus.

Working in horticulture brings with it a certain responsibility – that of everyone else’s gardens! Friends, family, passing acquaintances and even complete strangers will freely ask your horticultural advice at any given opportunity – and that’s ok. I rather like it!

This week I received an email from my sister, who has twin girls aged 2. They are just at the stage where the big outdoors holds a certain appeal and quite rightly, she wants to start them gardening young – probably in the hope that they will be mowing the lawn by the age of 10!

Mini greenhouse

Mini greenhouse

“I’m thinking of doing some gardening with the girls in the spring – probably just some tubs and containers of veg and a few flowers for them to water.  Going to ask for a mini greenhouse for Xmas. Any recommendations? And also any good varieties of seeds that are easy for us to grow?  Just seen the “Explorer” seeds on Thompson & Morgan website.  Like the look of the mini carrots and the ladybird poppies!  Also thought about some sunflowers, climbing French beans and stuff like that.  Any other suggestions??”

Well this made me think. Under usual circumstances I would give a textbook reply – mumble something about sunflowers, and that would be sufficient. But now that I am expecting a little girl myself, things have changed quite significantly. This time I actually thought about it properly.

So here was my reply:

“Regarding your gardening plans, I would suggest that you get a fairly solid mini greenhouse – it will certainly protect your young plants from the worst of the weather, particularly if you position it in a bright, sheltered spot. The plastic covered ones aren’t warm enough to grow seedlings early in the season but you can start them off on a windowsill, and then move them to your mini greenhouse once the weather warms up a bit. Or you could get a cold frame!

Strawberries - grow your own!

Strawberries – grow your own!

If you want to get the girls interested then I would suggest that you try:

  • Sunflowers (seeds are easy to handle, fast growing)
  • Marigolds (colourful, reliable, quick growing, and deadheading is fun!)
  • Cherry tomatoes (quick growing, bite size so they can eat them straight off the plant)
  • Strawberries (low maintenance and can be eaten straight from plant)
  • Beans (runners/ climbing – whatever they like to eat!) (Runners make a really impressive display in a massive container on the patio!)
Potatoes - grow in bags to save space

Potatoes – grow in bags to save space

Carrots – yeah, they are ok but they do take quite a while to get going and there isn’t much fun to be had! Better to do some bags of potatoes on the patio. Emptying spud bags out and digging about in the soil to find the tubers is some of the best fun to be had in the garden – EVER! I still love it at my age!

Also try some direct sowing (i.e straight into prepared ground – literally throw and sow!).

Californian poppies - just throw and sow

Californian poppies – just throw and sow

Try Eschscholzia (Californian poppies) – they are good and colourful. We also do a nice butterfly mix to attract some wildlife to the garden. ”

So hopefully next year there will be plenty going on in my sister’s garden for her girls to enjoy and get involved in, but none of it should be too high maintenance. However her question has made me realise the limitations of my own garden when it comes to entertaining little people – but that’s a whole different subject that is best saved for another post!

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