Tag Archives: gardening with children

Growing little gardeners

19 Sep

thomas - beetroot
The lovely weather this year has really helped to encourage our love of gardening. We have had a bountiful supply of fruit and vegetables and growing our own produce has definitely helped with the picky eater in our family!

It is great for children to be involved in gardening. It gets them out in the fresh air, helps their knowledge of science and nature and they can get a real sense of pride seeing something they have grown. Nurturing tiny seedlings into fully grown plants gives them a sense of responsibility, even from a very young age.

Here are a few tips for encouraging a love of gardening in our little ones.

1.  Let them sow their own seeds. This includes making the rows – even though they may end up a bit wonky! Let them choose which seeds they want to sow too (I sometimes struggle with this one!)

2.  Give them their own area of the garden which they can be responsible for – even if it is just their own pot, they will love being able to call it their own.

3.  Try to grow some fruit or vegetables. You don’t need a huge amount of space, you could start with growing a few strawberries or carrots in a pot. We have grown lots of vegetables for the past couple of years and they are all grown in containers.

4. Try flower pressing. Both Lily and Thomas have always loved doing this. If you don’t have a flower press just use a big thick book with some white paper between the pages. For best results, pick the flowers when they are nice and dry. They can use the pressed flowers to make cards or pictures. We love these pressed flower gifts and might need to make some more for Christmas!

5. Encourage a wildlife-friendly garden. Talk about the types of plants you have and which insects will enjoy them. Go on a bug hunt with an insect book to help with identification, or maybe even draw some of the insects that you spot.

6. Get crafty with your garden finds. Why not try these wind-chimes, acorn people or a  Cress Eating Caterpillar?

7.  Little hands need little tools so it may be worth investing in a Children’s Garden Tool Set. If they find the tools easier to handle they will be far more likely to want to use it.

We have had so much fun in the garden this summer and hopefully it will carry on well into the autumn. We are still picking bumper crops of runner beans, apples and raspberries and we are still religiously watering our sweetcorn in the hope that we will soon be enjoying a sweet, juicy crop.

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Our potted allotment

1 Oct

You may have seen our earlier post on growing vegetables in containers. This was our second year attempting to grow some of our five-a-day in pots or raised beds. We had the best weather for growing this summer but it was difficult to keep up with the constant watering. That is the difficulty with container grown veg. It all dries out very quickly and to make matters worse our three water butts ran empty three times over the summer.

On the plus side, the garden was teeming with wildlife. Some good, some not so good like these pesky caterpillars!

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Solomon Seal Sawfly - How disgusting?!

Solomon Seal Sawfly – How disgusting?!

And here are some photos of the good guys which are always welcome in our garden.

Our garden has been full of Hoverflies this year

Our garden has been full of Hoverflies this year

Damselflies feed on flies and other small insects

Damselflies feed on flies and other small insects

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Mr Toad lives in one of the grow bags containing our tomatoes

So, now to the fruits of our labour. We have had a fantastic crop of runner beans this year. They have been producing for months and are still showing no signs of stopping. Our freezer is full of them! They freeze really well, just prepare them and drop them into boiling water for one minute. Then transfer them to some icy cold water and cool before bagging them up into freezer bags. We grew these in some raised beds, about 4′ x 4′, I initially raised the seeds in pots and then transplanted them out in spring.

Our runner beans at the start of the summer

Our runner beans at the start of the summer

We grew Broad Beans for the first time this year, again in our raised bed and I was really happy with these. We planted them in the winter and they were ready to harvest in June. This was great as they were ready before the rest of the vegetables which all seem to be ready at once.

broad beans

We grew our Courgettes in pots and also planted a couple in a spare piece of flower bed. All of the plants were successful. the pot-grown ones did have the advantage of being better protected from the slugs.

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We had a bumper crop of garlic and will certainly be planting some more this autumn. This lot should see us through until then.

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Our potatoes were a bit disappointing this year. We grow these in old water butts. We had one that was leaking so we cut it in half and now have two giant planters. They usually work well but this year they got blight and a lot of them were wasted. Next year we will try a different variety. The ones that were successful were still very tasty and the children love digging them up!

potatoes

Other crops that worked well this year were salad leaves (the cut and come again variety), beetroot and carrots. We also had a really good crop of blackcurrants from just one plant that is grown in a pot. The children were picking these straight off the plant and eating them… yummy.

We will never be completely self-sufficient from our container-grown crops but we have certainly cut down on our food bill this year. For us though it’s about the satisfaction of growing your own food, knowing where it has come from and involving the whole family in growing it.

Great adventures in Grandad’s garden

27 Aug

Our own garden is fairly large but steeply sloping and terraced in places. It is a lovely space but doesn’t really give us a big enough area for the children to run around and burn off their seemingly unlimited stores of energy.

Luckily the children are fortunate enough to have grandparents with beautiful, big gardens. When visiting Grandma and Grandad in Kent, the children are totally spoilt as their garden is like one big playground.  You could play hide and seek here for days on end without getting bored.  There are so many little places to hide in.  There are also mature trees to climb, a vast lawn for games of croquet or badminton and, best of all, a hand-crafted treehouse.  This was made by Grandad and includes a pine-cone doorbell, a letterbox, little seats and a table (again all hand-made) and two little windows that they can open to keep look-out for spies (or grown ups!) It really is quite amazing.

The Treehouse

Grandad is very ingenious and usually comes up with some new entertainment for our next visit. What started as a pirate ship made from scaffolding poles and planks, soon evolved  into the departure point for the new zip wire! Some cabling and other technical bits and bobs, along with a handcrafted wooden seat has now taken shape and whizzes them from one end of the garden to the other. It is totally brilliant and keeps them amused for hours.

Pirates ahoy!

Pirates ahoy!

The garden is filled with gorgeous flowers, ponds and wildlife so we also spend time looking for frogs and butterflies. Here are a few that we spotted on our most recent visit.

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The Comma Butterfly (Polygonia c-album)

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Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae)

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Large White (Pieris Brassicae)

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Peacock (Inachis io)

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Common Blue (Polyommatus Icarus)

We love exploring the numerous little paths that lead you to a folly, an apple tree filled with little people (yes, really!), statues, hidden benches and a greenhouse crammed full of little seedlings bursting out of their pots. At the top of the garden is Grandad’s shed in which he keeps everything and anything and you know that he can put his hand on exactly the thing he needs at a moment’s notice.

It’s a wonderful space for the children to grow up in and I thought it was definitely worth a mention on here.  I hope you will enjoy the photos too.

The Folly was built by Grandad is one of my favourite parts of the garden.

The Folly was built by Grandad and is one of my favourite parts of the garden.

Stunning Tree Lillies in the garden this summer

Stunning Tree Lillies in the garden this summer

Thomas loved helping Grandad to plant his runner beans in the spring. When we came back in the summer we ate them for tea!

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Whilst we were in Kent a few weeks ago, we bought home some flint and asked Grandad to show us how to make some arrow heads. It seems there are no end to his talents!

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We’re going on a bug hunt…

25 Jun

Today was a gorgeous sunny day so we decided to get out there and enjoy the garden.  My plan was to do some planting and weeding but of course No. 2 child had other ideas! We ended up going on a bug hunt which was pretty good fun. I did get quite distracted trying to get ‘the perfect shot’ of a Bumble Bee but also managed to spot quite a lot of other wildlife.  The garden was only planted about 5 or 6 years ago but we specifically chose plants that attract wildlife and it does seem to be paying off.

The garden is teeming with hover-flies at the moment

The garden is teeming with hover-flies at the moment

Hover-flies are great as their larvae feed on aphids.  They should have a real feast in our garden at the moment because we have quite a few green-fly, particularly on my roses. I don’t tend to treat them with anything biological, I just give them a blast with some water or sometimes just rub them off with my fingers.

We are yet to identify this one!

Cardinal Beetle

The Cinnabar Moth

The Cinnabar Moth (minus part of a wing)

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If my identification is correct then this is a ‘flower bee’.

Our Astrantia (Great Masterwort) are covered with bees and hover flies at the moment and the flowers are so pretty.

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Damsel Fly

Lots of Damsel Flies are enjoying the garden at the moment. They are really lovely but I would LOVE to see some really big Dragon Flies. I have only ever seen one of these in our garden and they are quite spectacular.

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Love this shot showing his googly eyes!

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Bees loving the foxgloves!
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It took me ages to get this shot!

There were lots of different bees buzzing around in our garden this morning.  I found a useful bee identification tool on the Natural History Museum website. I haven’t identified this particular bee yet but I’m guessing it’s long ‘pollen grabber’ could be a key to working out which one this is? If anyone knows do get in touch, and I’d also love to know the correct term for ‘pollen grabber’…

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Pyrochroa Serraticornis

A small sample of our Froglets. There are loads of them!

A small sample of our Froglets. There are loads of them!

When we’d finished our little bug hunt we came inside (mummy was gasping for a cup of coffee) and looked through our wildlife book to identify the creatures that we had found. Thomas loved doing this and tomorrow I think we will try to draw some of them and write their names.

Autumn Indoor Fairy Garden

7 Nov

The autumn is probably not the best time to put together a fairy garden but I’ve been meaning to make one for so long I just had to bite the bullet and go for it!  This one is designed to be kept indoors, I will try to make another outdoor one next year. Please excuse the rubbish photos – I gave up waiting for a nice sunny day to take these.

I wasn’t really sure how to make the Fairy House but I knew I wanted it to look as natural as possible. In the end I decided to use an old tub of biscuits. I cut a door and some windows in it and then I used very thing strips of bark (which I peeled off our logs) to cover it with. I glued them on with my hot glue gun. I made a cardboard roof which I covered with lots of moss that we had collected from a walk in the woods. We made a doorbell with an acorn and a piece of string that you can just about make out on the side of the house.

When the house was finished I filled a tray with compost and planted up some ferns and other small plants. We put some gravel down and some shells and pebbles and soon had a path and patio area.  I sunk an old yoghurt pot into the soil to make a pond and Lily insisted that we gave it some sequin edging! This is just a basic garden to start us off but we are going to add to it over the coming months by making little bits and pieces for it. I will add more photos here as we do that.

If you are interested in making your own fairy garden you MUST check out these gorgeous pictures on Pinterest! I could sit and look at these all day…..

Container grown vegetables – the results are in!

21 Aug

We have been enjoying the fruits of our labour the past few weeks! Last night we had a lovely meal and the only thing that didn’t come from our garden was the cold chicken!

In the spring, we purchased a small raised vegetable bed and excitedly filled it with beetroot, carrot and green bean seeds.  I am amazed by how productive it has been. We also had an old water-butt that had a leak in it so we cut that in half and hey-presto we had some fantastic containers for our potatoes. They tasted amazing and the children had great fun digging for them. Just look how pleased they are with their crop!

Lily and Thomas are now expert pea shellers! If you haven’t tried this with children you really should give it a go. It keeps them amazingly quiet! I couldn’t think of any songs about peas but we managed to make up a few funny ones of our own whilst we were doing this.  Lily LOVED eating the peas raw straight from their shells and it really took me back to my childhood when I used to sit at my grannys table helping her to shell the peas.

We’ve also been growing Tomatoes in grow bags and Courgettes and Peas in pots. Despite the growing season being very wet for us here in Devon, everything has done really well and we will definitely be growing our own next year.  I think the most successful thing for us was the runner beans.  We planted these in a half barrel that we picked up at the garden centre a few years back. We lined it with an old compost bag before planting so that it would retain some of the moisture and it worked really well. We were picking runner beans non stop for about a week before growth started to slow down.

The one thing we didn’t have much luck with was Strawberries.  I think this was just due to the amount of rain that we had, they were all mushy inside and very watery.

If you are growing beetroot this year you might want to try this little recipe which I cooked up the other night! It is really yummy and I found it a great way to use up green beans and beetroot (which we seem to have a glut of at the moment!)

Beetroot and Green Beans with Garlic.

Boil your green beans for around 7 minutes.

Heat some olive oil in a pan and add the green beans and your (pre-boiled) beetroot.

Add a clove or two of fresh garlic and some salt and pepper.

Fry for about 5 minutes tossing the garlic and vegetables around and making sure the garlic does not burn.

Serve it hot or cold, it is very tasty either way!

Seared Green Beans and Beetroot with Garlic

Have you been growing fruit and vegetables this year?  Do you have any tips for container vegetable growing?

Dinosaur garden. Recycled tyre project

11 Jun

This Dinosaur Garden is great for pre-schoolers and older children and is very easy to make.

You will need:

An old car tyre – most garages are more than happy to hand an old one over for nothing

Tin of old paint (outdoor paint is best)

Bag of compost

Some rocks, pebbles or stones

Garden Gravel

Prehistoric looking plants… ferns are great for this!

Some Dinosaurs!

How to make it

First paint your tyre. It is best to use outdoor paint if the tyre is not under-cover. Leave to dry overnight.

Line your tyre with an old compost bag. Make a few holes in the bottom for drainage. Fill with compost or earth.

Add a variety of rocks, pebbles or bark.

Plant your prehistoric looking plants and cover the soil with gravel. You don’t have to use gravel but it will prevent weeds growing too quickly and it does make it look quite authentic I think.

Add dinosaurs and enjoy hours of imaginative play!

I spotted this  project in the amazing book Garden Crafts for Children
by Dawn Issac, which I will be reviewing in full in a week or so.  We are quite excited to have dinosaurs in our garden so I couldn’t wait to share this one with you!