It Might Sound Uncool, But We All Have a Responsibility to Help Kids Have Fun in the Garden

08/07/2013 18:05 BST | Updated 07/09/2013 10:12 BST

With the school holidays upon us, parents are undoubtedly looking for ways to keep their children entertained over the long and, hopefully, sunny weeks to come.

When I was growing up, my brothers, sisters and I spent many happy hours outside just playing and messing about, but it's a sad fact that children are spending more and more time inside on computers or watching TV. Times have changed and the lure of technology is a strong one for kids, especially teenagers.

Our research shows that of the 82% of children in the UK who have access to a garden, only 40% use it more than once a week, whilst 30% only spend time in it once or twice a month, and 20% hardly ever spend time in their garden. When questioned about this, over 50% said they'd rather do other things, which I'm sure would include being on their PlayStation and Facebook. I know it might sound uncool, but all of us have a responsibility to help kids have fun in the garden and reap the benefits that it brings.

Around 85% of us live in towns and cities, without the easy access to rolling countryside and open fields where children can safely spend hours exploring and learning about the natural world around them, which makes it even more important to encourage to them to be outside.

I didn't know it at the time, but the hours I spent outside playing and helping my mum to garden meant I was learning about the seasons, nature and wildlife. Like my parents and grandparents, my siblings and I knew where our food came from and we all had a basic knowledge of garden plants and their place in the environment.

An RHS survey of under 16s has shown us the rather startling fact that two thirds of children think that pumpkins grow on trees or underground, over half have no idea how broccoli grows and almost 80% can't identify foxgloves.

Whilst saddening, fortunately this picture isn't universal. The RHS Campaign for School Gardening now has around 17,000 schools signed up to it, reaching more than two million children across the UK.

Over the summer, many of these children are taking part in the RHS Flower Shows across the country and seeing them come on site, bursting with excitement and so proud of what they've created is one of the most rewarding parts of my job.

At the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show in Surrey, which takes place this week (9 - 14 July), kids from RHS Campaign schools all over the South East have worked together to make a fantastically colourful display of scarecrows. Made with plants and recycled materials, the kids have let their imaginations' run wild in a way that only kids can!

Twenty two schools from the North West have challenged their pupils to create gardens for the RHS Flower Show Tatton Park, in Cheshire (25 - 28 July). Lined up against spectacular gardens by professional designers, these school gardens can really hold their own and are a visitor favourite year after year. This year the gardens are themed around 'horrible histories' and 'horrible sciences' and for the first time we have some local secondary schools taking part, which I'm absolutely thrilled about, as it's this age group which is most difficult to engage with. But it doesn't end there and the demand from schools wanting to be involved in our shows, means we also have a planted container competition for younger kids.

As a nation, we still have a long way to go before we are able to say that every school child in the UK has access to a balcony, their own garden, a community garden or park, where they can learn about gardening, where their food comes from and just having fun with beautiful plants. But I can't help thinking that the enthusiasm I see on the faces of those children that come to our four gardens and Shows can only mean that we're doing the right thing.

Often some of our most powerful childhood memories are of being outside the in garden, making mud pies, rose petal perfume, finding conkers or sowing dusty seeds and being amazed by the magic that turns them into beautiful flowers - it was always about having fun and this is what we must all remember in order to get our children learning and gardening today.

For more information about the RHS and to buy tickets to any of the RHS Shows this summer, visit