Revelling in gardening with kids!

posted in: Sarah Garland | 17

This time 3 years ago I had just set out on an adventure that – although I didn’t realise it at the time – was going to change my family’s life and how we spend our days really rather considerably. We’d not long moved house and for the first time I had a garden. Despite having very little gardening experience I soon caught the bug for growing my own fruit and veg – perhaps because at times it’s the grown up equivalent of kids messing about with mud.

First M and now J too wanted to get their fingernails grubby alongside mine, and before long they had both learned that the only good slug was a stamped-on slug ๐Ÿ™‚ Now, every spring we spend as much time as possible (and it is never seemingly enough given the vagaries of English weather) in our garden sowing seeds and preparing the soil for bounty later in the year.

There are lots of perfectly good non-fiction books for children about gardening, but I’ve yet to find one that has inspired and taught M, J and me as much as the (fiction) picture book Eddie’s Garden: and How to Make Things Grow By Sarah Garland. This is a story of a family working together over the course of one growing season to create an urban vegetable garden from scratch. Along the way, the two children, Eddie and his cheeky younger sister Lily learn a great deal about being green fingered, from how to collect and sow different seeds, the role of different insects in the garden to how to catch and (organically) dispatch every gardener’s no.1 enemy, the slug.

Four pages of child friendly notes are found at the back of this book providing further detail on how to grow the various vegetables and other plants mentioned in the text, as well as some sound advice on soil preparation, container gardening and pests, amongst other things.

If you want to start gardening with kids this is the very first book I would thrust into your hands! For a start it is a full of information that my kids have hungrily absorbed without any real awareness that they’ve been learning the basis of photosynthesis, food chains and sustainability. The story itself is beautifully and simply told with a good dose of humour and acute observation about family life. I’m sure it’s such a hit with M because the whole garden creation id driven by the children – it is their idea and vision which the adults in the story simply help to facilitate.

Although I can’t believe the text wouldn’t leave you wanting to start gardening, should you have any doubts about the venture Garland’s detailed, warm illustrations will definitely win you over. her observations of slightly chaotic (but all the more recognisable for that) family life, full of love and fun, reminds me (in terms of their content, though not especially their execution) of Shirley Hughes.

There is LOTS of advice out there about gardening with kids, but here are my top tips based on the last 3 springs I’ve shared with my girls.

  • Grow flowers and lots of them! My girls love being able to pick bunches of flowers to decorate themselves and their play spots with. I don’t want to be worrying about them picking the “only” or “last” flower of a particular type so whatever flowers we grow we grow ones that are abundant and even benefit from heavy picking, for example Nasturtium and Sweet Peas. We also like to grow plants whose flowers are edible – everyone gets a kick out of eating a salad or decorating a cake with whole flowers or petals from the garden.

  • Grow any and all vegetable which have large seeds. Large seeds are easy and enjoyable for kids to handle – sowing becomes a doddle, and any seeds left over immediately become currency, jewels, items to be smuggled, food for teddies or just nice object which are fun to hold because they fit so snugly into kids’ palms. Vegetable which have kid-friendly sized seeds include broad beans, mange tout, peas, runner beans, sweetcorn, pumpkins and squashes.

  • Make your garden wildlife friendly. Not only will this ultimately aid your gardening (for example by attracting birds who eat bugs and slugs) it also helps create the perfect playground for your kids – there will be treasures your kids love finding under every stone or in amongst long grass. making your garden wildlife friendly also means (at least for me) gardening organically, which also leaves me with peace of mind when the kid are out their playing sticking their fingers into everything! Here are some tips from the RSPB about making a wildlife friendly garden.

  • Create irresistible hideaways in the garden for your kids. If kids have secret or special places in the garden, they’ll want to be outside in the garden – a prerequisite for successful gardening with children!

  • Some music to garden by (and these are *really* good!)….

  • Talkin’ Harvest Time Blues by Stephanie Davis – perfect for any of you who have ever had dilemmas about what seeds to order from a catalogue!
  • Homegrown Tomatoes by Home Grown Tomatoes Band (specially included for Andi at Laundry on the Line!)
  • The Vegetable Song by Steve Goodman
  • Plow To The End Of The Row by Adrienne Young & Little Sadie
  • I’m A Lonely Little Petunia (In An Onion Patch) by Arthur Godfrey
  • A Proper Sort Of Gardener by Maggie Holland

  • And if it’s raining and you can’t get out in to the garden here are some other gardening activities you could try :

  • Turn gardening catalogues into collages to create virtual gardens, as inspired by this post from 4 Crazy Kings
  • Jazz up your patio / driveway / windowsill with home-painted pots, like these from paint cut paste
  • Create a garden goddess, inspired by Twig and Toadstool (this one’s for you Mum!)
  • Get inspired by Dawn who writes about getting children hooked on gardening at Little Green Fingers. I love her Pre-School Gardening Club – Weekly Activities Plan
  • And if you like doing your gardening in secret here’s some essential reading that’s might bring out your mischievous side!

  • Do you garden with your kids? What are your top tips? If you don’t garden with your kids, and would like to, what advice would help you get going?

    17 Responses

    1. Catherine

      Thanks for the great gardening links. My son loves gardening. It is his special thing to do with Grandma. But I am trying to get him more jobs in our garden.

    2. Andi

      I love the song!! It’s especially perfect as I currently have 5 different varieties of tomatoes to go into the garden this year. Thanks for including it for me! ๐Ÿ™‚

    3. Zoe

      Wow Andi – 5 different types! I’ve got two different ones going well – a mini plum and a golden cherry type – yum yum!

    4. Mama King

      What a great post full of wonderful ideas! I know my girls will love many of these ideas.

      Thanks for the link!

    5. Martha

      Another great book is the Tickle Me Plant Book. They show you how to easily grow a real plant that MOVES when you Tickle It! The leaves instantly fold and even the branches droop when you Tickle It

      Men and woman love to play with this plant that seems to love affection
      ( See the video if you need a fun gift

    6. jackie

      What a wonderfully inspiring post. And a reminder that I really need to get out there … stat.
      : )
      Thank you.

    7. TwigandToadstool

      Thanks for including our Garden Goddess craft among all the great gardening links!!!
      Terrific gardening info…one fun thing we’re doing in our yard this year is designing a little butterfly garden…totally appeals to my daughters fanciful sensibilities!!!
      Happy planting everyone!!

    8. amandab

      When we picked up this book at the library there was a carry on! Princess did not want to borrow it, but I told her that I had ordered it especially and if she didn’t want to read it that was fine.

      By last night she was keen, and by the end she was loving it (especially Lily!). She told Dadda all about it (and, again, Lily!) today when we met him for lunch and he has promised to read it with her tomorrow night when he is home.

      We have borrowed a couple of other Garland books, but are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Eddie’s cooking adventures!

    9. magg, red ted art

      oooh, great to have a book recommendation.. have been doing some planting with Red Ted and was “worried” that if we read Jack & the Beanstalk I would set unrealistic expectations!!! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    10. Zoe @ Playing by the book

      Hi Amanda,

      I’m so glad you were able to get hold of the book. Yes, Lily is an adorable character – very easy to fall in love with. My girls love playing at being Eddie and Lily (they like to water each other with the watering can!) Yes, eddie’s kitchen is great too – and a perfect follow on from eddie’s garden.

    11. Ian @ Tidy Books

      We love our vegetable patch. Strawberries are awesome as they can be literally picked and eaten. Potatoes are also cool, as they love water, children can have great fun watering them, with no fear of them being overly watered. We have added two fruit trees this year, one was free from the council, and we have also make room for pumkins, more for carving later in the year than eating if I’m honest.

    12. Zoe @ Playing by the book

      Hi Ian,

      I think growing veg to do stuff with rather than eat is a great thing – we’re growing jersey kale this year, not because we will eat much of it, but because it has great building properties – it’s meant to grow enormously tall and then the girls can build dens with the stem!

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