Gardening with the children this summer? Whether you’ve got an acre of land or just a few pots on the patio, even the smallest spaces are ideal to get growing.
With a precious few weeks left of the summer holiday, what better way to spend it than in the garden with the kids?
Fun for the whole family, you and the kids can get planting flowers, pruning plants and picking herbs for a fun and educational project for both you and the kids.
StyleNest have teamed up with Isabelle Palmer, founder of www.thebalconygardener.com to bring readers some top tips on how to get the little ones interested in gardening*.
Tip 1. Grow Your Own Salad
Kids are a lot more inclined to eat, or at least try anything they have grown themselves, so growing your own salad is a great way of getting the leafy greens down.
It helps introduce children to the practical side of gardening and increase their interest in healthy food.
You will need: some compost, a pot or window box, garden tools, watering can and a selection of seeds – salad crops such as lettuce, rocket, peas etc.
Help your children to fill the pot with some fresh compost. Press down a little and plant the seeds following the instructions on the packet. You don’t have to sow in rows, just make sure there’s enough space to get to the plants for watering, weeding and picking.
Once planted, get your little ones to water them gently every evening if the soil is dry, as they must be kept moist.
When the plants start to grow, children should make sure the slugs and snails don’t eat everything. Now just wait until the salad crop looks ready to eat. If you keep planting seeds every 2-3 weeks and cutting the leaves regularly, you’ll have salad leaves all through the summer.
Tip 2. Tasty Tomatoes
You can also try growing tomatoes from seed – small ones are best. Follow instructions for salad leaves as per above, but after you’ve planted the seeds, cover the pot with a polythene bag as tomatoes need heat to germinate. Once two leaves have formed, you can prick some out to make more space.
When the plants are about 2.5cm long, remove the side shoots regularly – this is called “pinching out”. The side shoots grow where the base of the leaf joins the main stem.
Vine tomatoes need to be supported by being tied to stakes. You can put colourful toppers on the canes to protect children from eye injuries. And remember to water regularly and feed every two weeks with a balanced liquid fertilizer suitable for tomatoes.
Tip 3. Butterfly Garden
Britain has over 50 varieties of butterflies but unfortunately these beautiful creatures are becoming rare. You don’t need a lot of space in your garden, but with a little bit of knowledge and some clever seeds, you could turn your garden into a butterfly paradise.
Provide the butterflies with warmth (a sunny spot), shelter (shrubs and trees) and nectar and butterflies will start to use your garden to feed and maybe even breed.
Our Limited Edition Butterfly Garden seeds are an exciting blend, specially selected to attract butterflies and other beneficial insects to your garden. Excellent for making attractive drifts of colour, and your garden a haven for wildlife and very easy to grow.
Sow outdoors where they are to flower once the soil has warmed. Dig the soil over well and sprinkle the seed thinly over the surface, then rake lightly to ensure seed is just covered. Germination usually takes 14-21 days.
Tip 4. Bird Feeders
Bird feeders will encourage birds to become regular visitors to your garden, especially during winter when food is scarce. This will make children aware of the changing seasons and what birds eat during the year.
Birds will be attracted to your garden if it provides food, water and shelter. There may be enough naturally in your garden to feed them in the summer and autumn months, however, there is unlikely to be in the winter and spring.
If you put out bird food, it is important to put it out all year round, possibly stopping when young birds are being fed – they can easily choke on peanuts and dried bread.
Birds also appreciate a shallow bowl of water that they can drink and bathe in.
Be sure to hang the feeder in a position where the birds can eat safely without being attacked by cats.
Tip 5. Rainy Day Gardening
Gardening doesn’t need to stop when the sun isn’t out, as greenery can still be grown on a windowsill with minimal outdoor space needed.
Nyokki pet plants – bear, kitty and chick – have grass “hair” which grows quickly which kids can then style and watch as it grows again.
*Remember to tell the children to always wash their hands after gardening.
For more information visit www.thebalconygardener.com.