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Lockdown is the perfect opportunity to get children into gardening

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Sunflowers and home-grown vegetables are always popular

CHILDREN love being outside and getting their hands – and everything else – dirty so introducing them to their first steps on the gardening journey isn’t too difficult.

Independent gardening consultant Sarah Milne offers these tips:

Most experts agree that for kids to get into gardening a space of their own is crucial – whether that’s a small bed, a grow bag or a terracotta pot. If it’s a raised bed or plot then keep it small and make sure is has good soil and light. If your children have grown out of their sandbox, consider converting it into a garden bed.

One of the best plants for children to start with is a geranium. Geraniums come in an array of colours from vibrant red and bright pink through to soft lilac and white with fabulous flower heads, and are robust enough to thrive being cared for by even the most untrained of little green fingers. They do best in full sun or partial shade - in fact the more hours of sun they get, the more flowers they produce. They need a bit of space to grow – so don’t crowd them into one pot, and don’t forget to water them.

Another must-have is a sunflower – which can grow 60cm in just four weeks – and nasturtiums, which are not only fast growers, but also pest resistant, which helps to ensure success. Nasturtium flowers are also edible, and are often used to add colour to salads and salsas, along with other vegetables.

Having children begin their gardening experience by growing vegetables is also a great idea and tomatoes, beans, peas and carrots are all pretty simple to get started and have a high success rate, even in containers if you have limited garden space.

If your children’s garden venture is just part of your bigger gardening space then here are some tips for this month from the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society):

  • Watch out for late frosts. Protect tender plants
  • Plant out potatoes
  • Plant out summer bedding at the end of the month
  • Water early and late to get the most out of your water, recycle water when possible
  • Regularly hoe off weeds
  • Open greenhouse vents and doors on warm days
  • Mow lawns weekly
  • Check for nesting birds before clipping hedges
  • Keep an eye out for slugs and other pests
  • Sow French beans, runner beans, squash, cucumbers and pumpkin seeds outside

Children love growing plants and love being in the garden but can often be impatient, wanting to see instant results, which is why National Children’s Gardening Week (23-31 May) takes place in the ‘warm’ week at the end of May, when plants grow quickly so that there are instant results to make everyone happy.

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