Monday, 27 June 2016

THE CHILDREN'S GARDEN



THE CHILDREN'S GARDEN

The world today is vastly different from our world when we were kids. As people moved away from city centre slums to the new housing estates around the town periphery, everyone suddenly had a garden, and soon learned about growing a few vegetables. As this was a source of cheap food, every family got involved including the kids. It was our job to do the digging and weeding as well as watering. However we soon reaped the rewards as the first radish were quick to appear, followed by early pea pods. In autumn we chose the biggest swede for our Halloween lantern as pumpkins hadn’t been invented for that task. As we grew up we started adult life with an understanding about
Sophie weeding the tub with fuchsia
gardening and a love of outdoor activities. Today electronic gadgets have taken over our kid’s lives and very few kids go outdoors to play thus knowledge of nature is being lost. This is a recognised problem, so now many adults and schools are taking steps to get our kids involved in nature and gardening. Kids love to be involved in seed sowing, planting and watching their own plants grow. My kids wanted to grow their own apple trees, so after eating an apple they kept the seeds and sowed them in pots. They got a dozen apple seedlings which they then planted on my allotment. Realising it would take about fifteen years for them to mature and fruit, I quietly grafted some shoots of Cox, Laxtons Superb and Worcester Pearmain onto them in spring. They all fruited two years later and my kids were really chuffed.
We just love the tulips
Some quick growing plants are great for the kid’s garden as they see results soon. Radish, lettuce, peas, rocket and beans are all favourites and the runner beans let them see how plants can grow tall quite quickly, but for a really tall plant give them some sun flower seeds.
Pumpkins are another favourite to see how big they can grow them, and then they get the biggest for their Halloween lantern. To carve a scary lantern is another skill to master.
To get them involved in cooking the produce, rhubarb picking for a crumble fits the bill. It is easy to grow, easy to pick and the crumble is delicious. Another summer favourite for kids is strawberry picking, but try to stop them eating them all before you get them home.
Even garden pests can prove attractive to kids as they search the cabbages for a pet caterpillar to take home in a ventilated jar and feed it up with fresh cabbage leaves. Then patience is required when it forms into a chrysalis and hibernates over winter before the butterfly emerges in spring.
Garden birds can be encouraged with feeders well stocked up, and kids can learn to identify all the different types.
Smith family planting pumpkins
Another good idea is to get kids to plant up a scented garden of herbs and flowers to see the variety of scented leaves and flowers that also attract butterflies and bees. Lavender is perfect for bees.
Although there is a massive range of different flowers, they are all involved to seed production, so it is a good idea to let children study and draw the different parts of the flower and the function they perform. This also involves the flowers of trees that are wind pollinated. Kids find this knowledge fascinating. This can also involve collecting leaves in the autumn for plant identification, as well as seeds and pods. Many plants will come true from home saved seed, so the kids can grow plants from their own seed collections.
Back at home the windowsill is a perfect place for a small cactus collection, many of which will flower if they face south and kept on the dry side.

Wee jobs around the garden

The war on garden pests continues, and with recent wet weather the slugs and snails are very active. I use slug pellets for lettuce, strawberries, cabbage, cauliflower and Kale and French marigold flowers which they seem to just love.
Greenfly are also breeding in plague proportions so an insecticide spray should sort them out.
The same spray will work on scale on the undersides of rhododendrons, which is becoming a new problem.

END

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