31 Jul 2018

Getting children into gardening (minimal skill and cost needed)

Getting children into gardening (minimal skill and cost needed)

by Mandy Watson

New life from broad beans
Attracting birds with a constant food supple

Our horticultural industry is in crisis – not enough young people are coming forward to enter the industry, so there's a massive skills gap.

And with the uncertainties of Brexit and the prospect of more expensive imports and a lack of intrastructure to grow our own plants, the future doesn't look good.

So, why aren't kids wanting to be professional gardeners? The problems are deep-rooted, institutionalised and part perception. Gardening is rarely looked upon as a career option by outsiders, either being an elitist designer or a jobbing labourer.

It's so often seen as a hobby for the elderly!

The best thing parents can do, whether they have an interest in gardening or not, is encourage their children to grow things.

Kids have a natural curiosity and fascination with life, so it shouldn't be that difficult. I came from two non-gardener parents, so it can be done. I managed to create a potted garden in a traditional NE England back yard in the 1970s!

back yard

Here are some ideas to get children interested – and you don't always need a garden:

  1. Sowing seeds: Start off broad beans, peas, sprouting veg, sunflowers and nasturtiums on a windowsill – little ones will be fascinated by life coming from a tiny seed.
  2. Give tham a patch of soil: Let them grow what they want to – chances are, they'll want wildlife to visit (make sure the plants are non-poisonous).
  3. Mixed planting; Put together plants that are beneficial to people and wildlife, such as fruit, vegetables and herbs mixed with shrubs and herbaceous perennials. Sunflowers, strawberries, thyme, herbs and firethorn (Pyracantha) offer nectar, seeds and berries.
  4. Birds: Buy (or make) a birdhouse, feeding station, or a birdbath, placed in the open so cats can't ambush it. Keep feeding birds once you start – they come to rely on sources of food.
  5. Wild meadow flower bed: Sow wildflower and grass seeds in a sunny spot – you will attract insects, birds, bees and butterflies.
  6. Plant a rose: Try to find one linked to their name. Children love the fragrance and birds love hip-bearing varieties, such as Rosa glauca.
  7. Hedges: Mixed native varieties create a natural habitat for birds.
  8. Log stack: Piles of wood/logs are home to some and a larder for other wildlife. Place it in a shady spot so that it remains cool and damp.
  9. Insect box: Screw together four lengths of wood and fill with hollow canes of various diameters. Place the box in a sheltered area, and on a fence, so the insects can find it.
  10. Create a mini-pond: Have safety in mind – you need a tub of water about 40cm deep. Fill with aquatic plants like Nymphaea pygmaea (pygmy water-lily) and Callitriche verna (water starwort) which will attract frogs and other amphibians. Place secure fencing around the pond or metal caging on top. Put logs and pebbles around the pond to give access to wildlife.
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