Gone are the days when you’d only find pensioners in the local allotments. Now, city allotments are regularly oversubscribed as the Mr Bloom Effect takes full hold. It’s the “in thing” to grow your own veg, cultivate your own herbs and create your own compost. But what if you don’t have the time?
As busy mums, we know all too well that problem. No sooner have you mulched your carrots then your toddler’s tearing at the earth with their bare hands, desperate to “help Mummy”. RIP carrots.
But it needn’t be that way. If you can get your kids properly involved, gardening can actually be a relaxing weekend activity, requiring minimal work and a great excuse for quality family time spent in the great outdoors.
What’s more, research shows that gardening is actually a great way to teach children about sustainability and nature – especially if they live in the city and don’t have a regular connection with the countryside.
More and more schools are integrating gardening into their curriculum now, keen to help children learn that tomatoes don’t grow on the supermarket shelf and potatoes didn’t start life at the local grocer’s.
And many experts believe that involving children in the growing part of the veg cycle means they’re more likely to eat their greens later on. Winner.
Here are some tips to get you started:
• Choose your plants wisely
Unless your name is Charlie Dimmock, it may be an idea to take on hardy plants, that don’t require a huge amount of TLC. In terms of veg, runner beans are fairly low maintenance, as they don’t tend to get savaged by slugs and snails, and leeks, potatoes, courgettes and onions are also a pretty safe bet.
Let your little ones get involved with choosing the seeds at the garden centre if possible, so they get to see the very beginning process of the vegetable’s life cycle. This can lead to all sorts of opportunities to talk about how vegetables grow and where they come from. You could always keep a couple of seeds as a reminder for them so they can compare them with the veg once it’s grown and ready to eat.
• Consider a herb garden
If you’re not green-fingered in the slightest, or have very limited space, you don’t have to give up on the idea of a garden altogether. Herb gardens are a great, easy alternative to a vegetable plot and can be grown in a pot on your windowsill.
We love the packages on offer with Plantabox for gorgeous vintage-inspired crates complete with seeds for planting. If you love them too, you can bag yourself a bargain and make the most of our Plant a Box deal we’re running – check it out here.
• Let your children have a dedicated area in the garden
It’s not rocket science. Give your kids their own “special” area of the garden and they’re likely to be so excited, they’ll want to take care of it. This could mean digging their own plot, giving them a corner of your own plot or just a pot or two. If space is really an issue, a few pots on a windowsill will have the same effect. The idea is that it’s their area, they are in charge of it (with your guidance) and they’re the ones who get to take credit when the veg ends up at the family dinner table.
• Invest in some gardening tools, just for them
There are so many cute gardening products on the market for children now, that we couldn’t possibly pick our favourites. But you don’t necessarily need to rush out and kit your child up with equipment Alan Titchmarsh would be proud of; a simple plastic watering can and one of your mini trowels is enough.
The concept behind letting your children have their own equipment is the same as the one behind giving them their own dedicated piece of garden. If it’s their own, they will learn to look after it and take the whole task more seriously. Plus they’ll feel ever so grown up and proud of themselves (cue cute photo opportunities).
For more ideas for getting children involved in gardening and spending quality time together as a family in the garden, check out the Kids Gardening pages of the National Gardening Association’s website.