Sunday, December 21, 2008

"Might I have a bit of earth?" -- Kids in the Garden

This month's Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshop is about helping kids enjoy the garden. So here is a gardener's dozen of dos and don'ts.
  1. Children are less interested in lawn than you think. While a big lawn can be handy for ball games, it often becomes too hot to use in summer, and life is not all ball games; allow for more imaginative play. A large lawn is intimidating for littlies, and they will avoid it.
  2. Don't guard your garden. Avoid planting expensive rare plants in the first place. The kids are bound to run over them. Find forgiving plants instead. Besides, with kids, you don't have time to cosset choice specimens any more.
  3. Avoid spiky plants in the wrong places. We have a kaffir lime growing in a great spot... for a kaffir lime. Unfortunately, it's on the edge of our lawn. While nobody has fallen into the plant yet, it has punctured any number of soccer balls.
  4. Children want places to hide in -- not necessarily for hide-and-seek, but for the secret moon base, the robbers' den, or whatever it is today. Have a deep shrubbery or other secluded place for the secret life of children.
  5. Fit in a place to dig -- not to garden in, but to dig for archaeological relics, find China, or to form a quarry for the trucks to play in.
  6. Have a firm area to play handball or ride the trike.
  7. Grow a tree to climb.
  8. Make sure there is shade available during summer time.
  9. Provide a small garden bed for each child for their very own, and encourage plantings of hardy, fast growers (sunflowers, radishes, beans, peas).
  10. Start children off planting with large seeds rather than small seeds or seedlings; they are easier to handle. In my area, that would include French beans, sunflowers, nasturtiums, sweet corn, most cucurbits and most bulb plants. Provide older children with seedlings in plugs rather than punnets.
  11. Point out the local animal life to your children, and explain what they are doing. My children love to have St. Andrew's Cross spiders or cicadas or praying mantises pointed out to them. Keep an eye out for larger wildlife too, such as birds, blue-tongue lizards, frogs or possums. Consider ways to provide habitat for them: nesting boxes, a pond, hollow logs, bird feeders and bird-baths.
  12. Assume children will pick the strawberries, fresh peas and cherry tomatoes. Encourage them by showing them the right way to pick crops (using the "elbow" on tomatoes, for example).
  13. Leave children to their own devices in the back yard as much as possible.

Perhaps I should mention that my Mum gave me a garden sign for my birthday last week: "Beware feral children."


Cheryl said...

Enjoyed your Post.

We have recently retired to the farm in the Hunter Valley and are working on our native garden. Love the wildlife that we are attracting.

Reasonably new to Blogger after a move from BigBlog. Still finding my way around. Actually, I have my L's as I endeavour to change my Template.

Thanks for the read!

Anonymous said...

Good points on gardening with kids.

Anonymous said...

These are great reminders, Chookie. I especially need to remember not to plant treasures that can't be run over. I break that rule all the time, which just leads to frustration. But I am delighted to see the kids enjoying the new yard/garden at our new house, and I plan to keep it kid-friendly.

Anonymous said...

Excellent tips, Chookie. In my part of Pennsylvania, the trend is toward large homes on even larger lots, which are basically expanses of flat lawn with some kind of play equipment way out in the otherwise-empty back yard. If I were a kid, I sure wouldn't be tempted to trek out there to play!