10:36 - 23 August 2011
Some children have a natural affinity for plants and gardens and need very little encouragement, so if you have an enthusiastic youngster simply allow them to be involved as much as possible in growing and gardening. Encourage them to grow things from seed and to experiment a little. Give them plants to grow and show them how to take cuttings. Let them explore their interest and if there is a group of plants that they like then let them grow a few. Help them to choose pocket money projects that they will succeed with and gently educate them about birds, bees and other insects. Show them things that you find interesting and exciting but try not to bore them and never, ever ask them to do any weeding unless they volunteer or want to earn some extra pocket money. Don’t make gardening a chore in any way, but allow them to help, especially with watering and harvesting whenever they are willing.
Cultivate their interest in any direction it takes and let them explore new avenues or plant groups as soon as an interest starts to form.
Other kids need a bit more effort to get them hooked, but be careful not to force them. Make the garden a fun place to be for summer games, garden play, picnics, garden camps and dens. Make a garden tent or a little house for them to play in and very soon the garden will become an extension of their play area. By getting them involved in the fun part of gardening you give them a good grounding, they may not show any obvious signs of wanting to grow plants but you are creating good memories that they will hopefully look upon fondly as they grow older. Sometimes this is the best you can hope for, but children are full of surprises.
Give your child their own patch of garden, but don’t set too many rules. They may want to grow things to eat or they may want to make mud pies or they may ignore it completely. A garden plot may be too much, so if it’s not successful then consider a planter, or a growing bag and if they don’t have their own ideas then set them a fun project to grow something easy like peas or strawberries. Try and choose something that they like to eat or something interesting. Little boys are often fascinated by insect eating plants, so these can be a good place to start. Try a pitcher plant (Sarracenia), as they are hardy and easy to grow. The main requirements are to water with rainwater and to pot up in special carnivorous plant compost.
Take your children to beautiful gardens, many public gardens have treasure trails or activities for children, but don’t forget that granny’s garden will hold many memories for little ones and make a great setting for Easter egg and treasure hunts.
Get them their own gardening kit, you don’t need to spend a fortune, there are lots of little tools for little green fingers that will make them feel like they are really involved. Kids love to copy so let them do so in every way possible.
Let them help harvest the potatoes, it’s like digging for treasure. Encourage them to pull a fresh carrot, or pod a real pea and taste the fresh sweet flavour of home grown produce. Help them to make their own pizza topping from home-grown ingredients, just a few tomatoes, some onion and courgettes is enough for a basic recipe. And if the kids are keen then introduce them to the local gardening club where they can make new friends and enter the junior section at local shows. Finally find out whether their school has a gardening club and if not think about starting one up for all the youngsters, contact your local gardening club and garden centre for support and help them to learn some basic skills and to have fun.
Getting the kids interested in gardening isn’t always easy, but once they are hooked they will never look back.