More than two million children are now gardening at school but the horticultural adventures don’t have to stop there.
Kids love playing with compost, water and generally getting messy – plus there’s a real sense of achievement when they have their own patch or pots to look after.
You don’t even need a garden with these simple ideas for planting buckets or other containers. Get them a scrapbook, too, so they can paste in their empty seed packets, take pictures of their progress and record how quickly and tall everything grows. Above all, remember to have fun!
Miniature Bucket Garden
Encourage little ones to create their own mini garden in a fun bucket.
1. Make about 10 drainage holes in the base of the bucket, explaining how holes help water drain away so the roots don’t get waterlogged.
2. Get your kids to fill their bucket with potting compost up to 2-3cm from the top, pressing down as they go.
3. Show them how to scatter seeds over the top – pour from the pack into their hand first, so they don’t tip out the lot in one go. Sprinkle over compost until the seeds are just covered. Encourage pollination by growing bee-friendly flowers such as dahlias, lavender, daffodils and foxgloves. You can pick up bulbs and seeds from selected stores.
4. Tell them to water their bucket well and leave outside in a sunny place. Set a time every day for them to check on their seeds or water if need be.
5. As the seeds grow, show kids how to thin out the seedlings so there’s at least 10cm between each.
TOP TIP: Grow fun nibbles with edible bright flowers such as Nasturtium Creepers – add to salads or sandwiches
A wheelbarrow can create a great garden of flowers or veggies that kids can personalize with paper windmills, flags or little signs.
1. Give kids a pen to mark the base of a wheelbarrow every 10cm so that you can make drainage holes in it. Then let them fill it with compost.
2. Sow a selection of vegetable seeds, such as radishes, lettuces and carrots, according to the pack instructions.
3. For an instant garden any time of year, plant small pots of herb plants like thyme, chives or parsley. Show your kids how to make holes in the compost with a trowel, take the herb out of its pot, put in the hole and firm the compost around it.
TOP TIP: Add a layer of gravel to stop muddy water splashing veg and herb leaves, so they are not too dirty when you snip them off
Let kids plant rows of nodding sunflowers. A chart will keep track of how tall they grow!
1. In late spring, fill 20 small pots with compost and keep them indoors. Get the kids to make a 2cm-deep hole with their finger. Drop in a sunflower seed and cover with compost. Sit the pots on a sunny windowsill, then water.
2. When the risk of frost has passed, arm the kids with a tape measure and get out in the garden. Mark out two rows, 1m apart, in a sunny spot. Dig small holes and plant the sunflowers every 40cm along each row.
3. When the stalks are about 1m tall, push in a bamboo cane next to each one and tie together in a figure-of-eight knot to give them support.
TOP TIP: Put your finger deep into the soil. If it doesn’t feel damp, your plants will be thirsty, so keep them well watered!
Climbing Bean Wigwam
Once the beans have climbed up the frame, it creates a leafy den to hide in.
1. Take four to six small compost-filled pots and let the kids plant a single bean 3cm deep in each. Place the pots on a sunny windowsill and water regularly – they should see shoots within days.
2. Plant the beans outside in summer. Help the kids make the ‘wigwam’ by pushing tall bamboo canes into the ground in a circle, leaving a larger gap between two of the canes to make an entrance. Do supervise this stage as bamboo can be sharp.
3. Next, show the kids how to carefully remove the bean seedlings from their pots and plant one at the base of each cane, gently wrapping the shoot around the cane to encourage climbing. Fill up a watering can and give them a really good watering. Within a few weeks, the beans should have raced to the top of the poles to create the bean wigwam!
TOP TIP: If you don’t have garden space, arrange large compost-filled pots in a circle with a cane in each and tie at the top with string