When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time with my Grandfather. He was a professional gardener and would quite often take me to his place of work, which I adored. I would help him pull out weeds and plant seedlings, whilst listening to him explain what we were doing, why we were doing it and how important it was to regularly put your hands into the soil. He was a wise man.
His own garden was set on around an acre in a low mountain range east of Melbourne, Australia. We would regularly disappear into its cool, quiet depths as there was always something to be done and it was so pleasurable. There was a small creek shrouded with tree ferns at one end and an enormous Holly tree, clad with ivy at the other. I became adept at climbing to the very top of that tree, taking care to avoid its sharp leaves. It was a perfect hidey-hole and a place to daydream and reflect.
When I was about 8, he presented me with my very own gardening kit including a very ‘grown up’ pair of secateurs. My passion for gardening was set. Now with two young children of my own, I often reflect on the time I spent with my grandfather and how he would have enjoyed sharing his love of gardening and nature with them. But of course, his passion, nestled deeply within me, is being passed to them by default.
It is relatively simple to get kids excited about being in the garden. Here are a few things you can do.
- Get ‘down and dirty’ yourself. Kids respond far more enthusiastically if you join in. Lead by example.
- Make the garden a place of deep magic. By mixing the magical with the practical, you are far more likely to ignite interest.
- Give them their own tools. Forget about the dinky plastic ones that bend or break the minute you tend the soil. Let your children handle proper equipment. Their responsible use will amaze you.
- Start a vegetable patch. It doesn’t matter whether you have a vast back garden or no space at all. A few pots or some recycled toys (such as an old Tonka Truck) are all that’s needed to grow herbs, edible flowers and simple vegtables and fruits such as beans, lettuce and tomatoes. Remember to start simply and choose fast growing varieties to avoid disppointment. Rocket (Arugula) is a perfect choice. Aptly named it will shoot from seed or seedling so fast, you should be able to harvest your first leaf within 2-4 weeks.
- Join a kid’s gardening club. There are some fantastic ones on the web. Many send regular magazines and funky seed packets to their members.
- Visit a plant centre or nursery. They are a fascinating place for children. Let them choose their own plants. My kids particularly enjoy the “stinky” section containing manure and fertilizers – go figure!
- Visit your local Botanic Garden. With open spaces and so many interesting plants and interactive displays, botanic gardens and parks are the perfect place to run around, fly a kite, have a pony ride, enjoy a picnic, chase birds, lie under a tree and get close up and personal with some truly awesome plants.
- Intersperse your children’s TV viewing habits with some gardening or nature programmes. My children LOVE watching garden renovation shows.
- Encourage your children to find a place in the garden to create their own special, secret, magical hidey-hole.
The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses.