Your little green thumbs
1. INCREDIBLE EDIBLES
Quick success is a sure-fire way to keep kids interested in gardening.
To ensure they see results fast, ABC’s Gardening Australia presenter and sustainable gardening expert Josh Byrne said plants grown from seed that were quick to germinate and grow were great for kids — think bush beans, Lebanese cucumbers, radishes and carrots, and grow in pots if space is tight.
Habitat gardening columnist Trevor Cochrane said kids would also get a kick out of planting “weird” crops such as gourds, purple carrots or orange, green, black or yellow tomatoes, or miniature versions of their favourite vegies such as cucumbers and cherry tomatoes.
2. START A WORM FARM
A healthy garden needs healthy soil and creating a worm farm with the kids is a great way to achieve this, according to Masters green life buyer Ann McKeon.
She said there were many ready-to-go worm farm kits on the market or you could try making your own with Styrofoam vegie boxes, old car tyres or wooden planks — basically anything that would contain the worms in a defined area. You would also need shredded paper mixed with some compost and, of course, the obvious — worms.
Students at Mt Hawthorn Primary School have set up an impressive organic worm farm and composting operation as part of the sustainability component of the school’s curriculum, which has not only reduced the school’s waste, it has also created a great fundraising opportunity through the sale of organic liquid fertiliser.
“It’s been fantastic to see the enthusiasm of the students involved and, importantly, it has strengthened the links with the school community, ” principal Dale Mackesey said.
3. STIMULATE THEIR SENSES
Grow plants that were sharp, soft, smelly and bright to give the kids a sensory and tactile experience they’d love, suggested Jane Davis, from Perth City Farm. She said the more children were taught to use their senses to notice things, the more in tune they were with the plants growing around them.
A sensory garden could have aromatic plants such as mint, lavender and citronella; a tactile area with cacti, soft flowers and firm vegies; as well as a section with different-coloured plants for a visual experience.
“But whatever is done, it will only catch the child’s attention if they are encouraged to somehow relate to it and the senses are such a common way to do this, ” she said.
4. DIY PLANT MARKERS
Cochrane said DIY plant markers were a quick, easy and creative project that would also help little green thumbs distinguish between vegetables and herbs once they were planted.
They could be made by repurposing everyday items or recycled wood, or try hand-painting the name of the plant on a rock (use a stencil for younger children).
“Another idea is to use painted rounded stones like river rocks to mark off whose part of the garden it is, ” Cochrane said.
5. MAKE AN EGG CARTON HERB GARDEN
Use old egg cartons to grow a “pick and snip” herb garden, suggested Jacqui Lanarus, from the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation.
“Simply fill the egg cartons with potting mix or healthy soil, sow herb seeds such as basil, chives, mint and parsley, and keep them protected for a few weeks as they grow, ” she said. “Once they are looking strong, you can transfer the entire egg carton to your pick and snip bed, and watch it take off.
“Remember that herbs like to be harvested — the more you pick and snip, the more they’ll produce.”
6. BUILD A GROWING CUBBYHOUSE
Create a secret hide-out by constructing a teepee frame that climbing plants like beans, peas and nasturtiums could grow on and that kids could play under, suggested Caroline Roberts, from Gardening 4 Kids, an Aussie online store that specialises in kids’ gardening products.
“To build one you need to bundle together a bunch of sticks — bamboo is great — with some garden twine at the top, ” she said.
“You then pull each stick out from the base and dig/push it into the ground until you have made a teepee shape and then plant your plants around the base of the sticks.
“They (plants) may need some guidance and training to grow up the tepee to begin with but should then take off.
“Remember to leave space for an entry into the teepee too.”
7. WRITE YOUR NAME IN RADISHES
Ms Lanarus said a fun idea that little ones would love was to have your child “write” their name using a pack of radish seeds in a spare patch of good soil.
“Water them in and within days your name will appear in radish seedlings, ” she said. “Remember to keep them watered and soon you’ll be digging out your radish crop.”
8. GROW A PIZZA PATCH
Ms Roberts recommended planting a pizza patch with all the vegies (tomatoes, onions, garlic, capsicum) and herbs (basil and oregano) needed to make pizza as most kids loved making and eating pizzas.
Or, try a “taco garden” (chillies, lettuce and tomato) or a “salad garden” (lettuce, cucumber and tomato).
9. CREATE A MINIATURE FAIRY GARDEN
Let your child’s imagination run wild by giving them a shaded spot in the backyard among bush or under a tree for a miniature fairy garden, suggested Cochrane.
He said all kids needed to do was mark off an area with some pebbles, add some small mirrors and pop in some fairy figurines and a house.
A buried small bowl filled with water was a nice idea for a fairy pond, while kids could create lawns with oregano, bamboo forests with dill and rose gardens with petunias too, he said.
10. GO POTTY
Have a bit of fun using unusual items as flower pots, suggested Cochrane. “For example, take an old Tonka dump truck, drill holes in the bottom for drainage and then add potting mix and a small growing plant or herbs, ” he said.
Ms Davis said other items ideal for growing plants included gumboots, basins, toilets, watering cans, teapots and even eggshells.
“Suggest to the kids to look around the house to find things that can drain, put soil in and grow things, ” she said.
Child-friendly gardening tips:
•Josh Byrne says to give kids their own bit of garden space that they have full creative control over, such as a garden bed or even a large container. “If it is ‘theirs’, they own it and take pride over it, ” he says.
•Byrne says to spend time with your kids in the garden by doing a project together. “Something as simple as sowing a pot with bush beans and checking how much they’ve grown at the end of each day can be a wonderful experience to share, ” he says.
•Ensure early success by using good soil and the right planting techniques, according to Jane Davis from Perth City Farm.
•Ms Davis says to make a fuss about the food they grow and teach them how to cook, comparing the taste of homegrown food with store bought.
•Ms Roberts says to give children their own gardening equipment such to help them feel a sense of ownership, pride and responsibility for it.
© The West Australian
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