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Starting them very young!

Encouraging children to take an active interest in gardening brings with it fresh air, creative play and it could start a lifelong interest in the subject

If you think children spend too time watching television or playing computer games then help is at hand. And it’s in the garden!

In the last few years, thanks largely to the huge RHS initiative to encourage schools to involve their pupils in gardening projects, the subject has lost its boring tag amongst children and suddenly many of them are being persuaded to get involved with growing things.

Gardening requires a bit of patience -after all seeds don’t grow overnight and so most children’s love of gardening may be a gradual thing.

Children also love to do things with you by giving them their own pots or even their own small area in a garden means they can get a sense of responsibility.

Raised beds are also a great idea for children.

Sowing seeds, looking after seedlings, transplanting seedlings are all things children love to do – and they‘ll soon see some results.

Here’s three very specific projects worth trying to get children into the fresh air.

Project 1 - Grow sunflowers The large seeds of sunflowers (helianthus annuus) are easy for children to handle and straightforward and fun to grow. If you buy the right variety then we are talking Jack and the Beanstalk proportions.

You can grow them in the ground but children may like to start them off in pots. They will germinate, grow, flower and set seed in one growing season from March to October and in high summer will look spectacular in the garden -giving the kids a real sense of achievement about growing something so substantial. Sunflowers come in a wide variety of sizes ranging from 2ft to the giant 15ft. There are also pollen free varieties for hay fever sufferers such as Double Shine F1 Hybrid.

Insert seeds in the soil one inch deep and six inches apart. Cover with ‘lemonade bottle cloches ‘(by cutting large two litre plastic lemonade


bottles in half and placing the top half over the seeds once they are planted. Don’t forget to take the tops off for ventilation. Seedlings should appear within 14 days and flower 45 days later. They will grow fast so later in the season you’ll need to stake them.

Project 2 - A wildlife diary

This year why not get children to begin a wildlife and nature diary and record the signs of spring, summer, autumn and winter as well as any interesting or unusual things to see. Don’t just limit it to the garden, keep looking out for things perhaps if you go out for the day, during a visit to the park, whilst on holiday or even going to school, Don't just limit it to the things that you see, listen as well, you may hear animals or birds.

Project 3 - A Wildlife camera

Why not put a wildlife camera in your garden, they can be installed in bird boxes and nest boxes and mean that you are able to watch a bird’s life from nest building, egg laying, the eggs hatching, feeding of the young birds and then

them fledging and all within the comfort of your home. These small cameras can also go into hedgehog houses, bat boxes and insect houses. A bug box is great new way to view insects, small mammals and reptiles. Place in woodland or a wild area of your garden and once sited the box will provide a microhabitat beneath it and after only two weeks it will be possible to inspect and view any interesting activity. Give it another eight weeks and the inhabitants will be well established.

Five great things kids will love to grow

1. Primrose, Primula vulgaris; a spring wildflower that comes in a variety of colours. Great for planting in pots and containers. 2. Wild strawberry, Fragaria vesca; children will love hunting for the small, sweet, delicious fruit. 3. Radish, Raphanus sativus; a great starter vegetable for kids because as well as being easy to grow, the colourful roots are ready for eating within a month of sowing. 4. Sweet pea, Lathyrus odoratus; sow seeds outdoors in March or April for blooms in June and July. Pick the flowers regularly to encourage more growth. 5. Lettuce, Lactuca sativa varieties; lettuces can be grown all- year-round; simply choose from the many varieties to ensure you have a crop for every season. Seeds, once sown, should begin to sprout within 12 days.

Country Gardener


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