A gardening post – hooray! There have been a lot of food posts lately with the release of our new book ‘Energy Bites’, but we’re still getting our hands dirty in the garden and on the allotment, if only to feed the chickens!
It’s mid-winter, pretty soggy and definitely cold out there – the perfect time to plan for the growing season to come. It’s also got me thinking about gardening in general and what I love about it…
There is a lot to love about gardening, but gardening with children has to be a huge highlight. Our gardens at home and on the allotment are a family affair, with everyone mucking in, tending their ‘patch’, digging, weeding and growing.
Being outside is always a pleasure and getting your hands dirty is definitely fun, but watching a seed turn into something that you can eat is absolutely magical!
Right from the word go our children have wanted to garden and we were more than happy to have their (ahem) ‘help’ – regular flooding, trampled seedlings and exuberant weeding were par for the course! We learnt to be more patient and not worry about the 10 million lettuce seeds that were being tipped into the flower pots! We were having fun…
The most important thing was that the children were getting real hands-on experience of growing and caring for something. They were learning to look after plants and being rewarded with amazing smells, glorious colours and very tasty homegrown food! Yum…
A few tips…
Give them some responsibility: With a little bit of gentle guidance, children can do just about any job in the garden. Of course, their age will dictate the level of responsibility that you choose to give them, but even a very small child can put compost in pots and plant a seed. They might make a bit of a mess, but that’s far outweighed by the pleasure they’ll get from watching the seed grow and what they’ll learn in the process.
A patch of their own: From a window box or hanging basket to a whole garden bed, no space is too small. Giving your child a patch of their own can be very empowering. Here they are free to plan, plant, dig, weed, prune and harvest without the adult constraints of what it should look like. We had a whole bank covered in wild flowers one year, followed by herbs and then a rockery. It’s now home to a pond and a family of toads!
They will learn from watching you: If you love gardening, then it’s likely your children will too. Let them join you, side-by-side and they’ll quickly get the hang of sowing, weeding and harvesting, just by watching you. Imitation is a powerful tool!
Use child-friendly tools: Smaller tools are much easier and safer for young children to handle – little watering cans and wheelbarrows are certainly lighter! This allows children to get more involved with the gardening and feel they are making a positive contribution. A bigger child could help with the pruning or even mow the lawn and all the while they’re learning skills that will stand them in good stead as adults.
Be patient: Everything will take longer with small children in tow and it may not go according to plan, but gardening should be a thing of great happiness. If you feel like it’s becoming a ‘battle’ then perhaps it’s time to get down on their level and check out the bugs or maybe it’s just time for a change of scenery! Naturally, it gets easier as they get older and are more capable – our three children are a veritable workforce in the garden, especially at harvest time when there are sun-warmed peas to be picked!
Build something together: Encouraging wildlife into the garden is massively exciting for children and hugely beneficial for the plants, plus it’s great fun to build something together! These projects will entice bees and other beneficial insects, hedgehogs, bats and birds, worms and other marvellous ‘mini beasts’ into your garden, onto your balcony or into your window box.
Over the coming months we’re going to make these projects with our children, write about it and hopefully inspire you to try some of them for yourselves!
- An insect ‘hotel’
- Seed ‘bombs’
- Pond dipping
- Bird box
- Bird ‘cakes’
- Bat box
- Hedgehog ‘bunker’
I’d like to think that gardening with our children has given them an implicit understanding of how to care for things, a respect for nature, a feeling of awe for the changing seasons, a deeper connection to the earth and a tangible knowledge of how to grow food and create healthy, happy meals from it.
It also reminds me to have fun in the garden, to stop and ‘smell the roses’ and that it’s ok to plant lettuce in the flower pots!