I'm passionate about gardening, not least because it offers a wholesome, affordable activity that all the family can enjoy.
It teaches children about their world, fills their tummies with nutritious, organic food and gets them out in the fresh air.
It's good for parents too, offering a stress-free hobby that is full of the feel-good factor. And it's easy on the pocket.
Whether you have a garden, use containers in a small space or are lucky enough to have an allotment, read my top ten tips for horticultural harmony.
- Give them a patch of their own, but be prepared to do the weeding. Often. Let them pick a plug plant or two at the garden centre. I try to let them have as free reign as possible over what they grow. It's their patch not mine.
- Always have child-size tools (metal is better than plastic) and a mini watering can each is essential. A brightly coloured plastic dump truck has also been a big hit at our allotment.
- If you can, find space for a digging pit. They'll dig anyway and this way you avoid them dispersing your freshly sown seeds. If your soil is heavy clay you could always fill it with sharp sand and thus help the drainage.
- Lower your expectations, then lower them a bit more. Sometimes they won't want to sow, dig or weed, preferring to set up a worm hospital or go on an insect hunt. You may find one of your offspring more enthusiastic than others. That's OK too. As long as there's no whining (or not much).
- If you have an alloment be like a Scout and Be Prepared. If it's chilly warm sweatshirts and hot chocolate, sun hats and sun cream when it's hot. Sweets also go down well (and help connect going to the allotment with Fun Things). Don't forget to pack plasters and know where a patch of dock leaves are (someone is bound to fall in the nettles/get stung/bitten by a red ant).
- Make sure you visit you do fit in some gardening sans children. This is when you'll get the bulk of the work done and it will mean you're not stressing too much about the list of jobs you need to get through when you've got little "helpers" with you. Plus, it's the cheapest, most wholesome tonic you will ever find.
- Don't inundate them with Don'ts. Your children will come to hate gardening if they can't do much without being told to mind this, that or the other. We have two rules - no running at the allotment and no play fighting with canes/rakes/spades.
- Grow food they like, it adds to the magic. Radishes don't get much of a look-in at our allotment; mine wouldn't care if they had grown them with their own hands, they're not passing their lips.
- Don't forget flowers. Children love them as do bees and insects. Sunflowers are obvious, sweet peas will reward children with a lovely scent and even more flowers. Dahlias and daffodils and a wildflower mix are all hits too.
- Don't forget to have a chair or a sun lounger nearby. If you're lucky you might get to sit in it occasionally.
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