What’s a good way to introduce gardening and plants to children?

Make the most of the school holiday and encourage children to start gardening, says Tamsin Westhorpe

Making garden memories Image: Stockton Bury Gardens

Ask most children what Easter means to them and you’re bound to hear the words chocolate and no school before anything else. You might hope their replies would include that it’s a time to celebrate the resurrection of Christ and that it’s when we should all rejoice new signs of life (but I expect I’m asking too much!).
As a child I was very aware of the true meaning of Easter as my late grandmother would involve my sisters and I in creating the Easter garden for the village church. We would collect primroses, moss and stones and build the tomb and a garden on a kitchen tray. Other Easter activities would include an Easter egg hunt in the garden and sowing cress on cotton wool in the empty shell of a boiled egg.

The start of the garden season

The Easter holiday falls at the perfect time to garden so parents and grandparents looking for ways to entertain their children should grasp the nettle now – well, not literally! At Easter many garden centres and nurseries enjoy their busiest time of the year and it’s when many new gardeners truly catch the gardening bug.

Making garden memories
Image: Stockton Bury Gardens

With the warmer weather and spring rain, results can be quick so children are especially interested in growing at this time of year. Start your children off on their gardening journey this Easter and you’ll never be short of ways to entertain them in the future.

Easy from seed

Instead of, or as well as, an Easter egg this year why not give your children or grandchildren some easy to sow seeds? Sunflowers can be sown direct into the garden along with other hardy annuals such as love-in-the-mist, calendula or nasturtiums. Windowsill gardening is always a winner and it’s the perfect time to sow tomato seed. Whatever you’re sowing – make sure you use a seed sowing compost to enjoy the best results.
Now is the perfect time to create new flower or vegetable beds and giving children their own patch is a winning idea. Encourage them to hand paint a sign for their little plot and start a compost heap. Carrots and radish are just some of the easy edible crops that can be sown now. If room in the garden is out of the question, then grow some edibles in pots.
Thompson and Morgan have introduced a wonderful range of Mr Men seeds that will certainly appeal to children – I for one am very tempted to grow a packet of Mr Tall Runner Bean ‘Moonlight’.

Turn your bedroom into a jungle

For an instant gardening fix invest in some houseplants for your child’s bedroom. A fly catcher or cacti always cause the most excitement. Starting a collection of one type of houseplant is fun and something the children can build on. Ask established gardeners and many will inform you that a cactus bought with their pocket money started their obsession with growing.

Let the plants spark the imagination. Adventures start here
Image: Stockton Bury Gardens

Planting a bottle garden is a great project for a wet Easter holiday – manoeuvring the mini plants into their new home with the help of tongs can be far more entertaining than you would first imagine.

Pocket money plants

If you have a future gardener/cook in the family then buying a few strawberry plants for a hanging basket or planting up a window box with herbs are all worthwhile projects.
Look out for plants with comical common names as these will always interest children. Some of the favourites are mother in law’s tongue (the house plant sanserveria), spider plant (the house plant chlorophytum) or the piggyback plant (house plant Tolemiea menziesii).
Why not set the children off with the task of finding the most inventive item that could be used as a container? Anything with a hole in the bottom for drainage will do – odd wellies, old handbags or even an old watering can will do. All being well, they will be so enthused by the garden that the Easter eggs will remain unopened – now that would be a miracle! Happy Easter.

Tamsin Westhorpe

About Tamsin Westhorpe

Tamsin Westhorpe is well known as an editor, garden writer and lecturer. However, she prefers to be known as a gardener. She was previously Editor of The English Garden magazine and lecturer at Kingston Maurwood College in Dorset. Tamsin started her gardening career at the age of 16 working for her great uncle John Treasure of Burford House Gardens in Worcestershire. Alongside her freelance work and being a mother Tamsin runs Stockton Bury Gardens in Herefordshire with her uncles and is currently training to be an RHS judge.
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