Tag Archives: planting

My Top Ten Plants for Children

I’m currently creating a tiny garden for my son’s pre-school.  In preparation for planting, I’ve just been unloading a cubic metre of compost to improve the soil.  Necessary, but hardly exciting work, so I’ve decided to take a break and dwell for a while on the far more interesting subject of the plants themselves.

With so little space on offer, it’s vitally important I make the right decisions about what to include.  As such, I thought I’d go all Top of the Pops and do a rundown of my favourite plants for children.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) – it smells wonderful but is tough enough to survive children squeezing it for an aromatic ‘hit’. It will also root very easily so you can even let junior gardeners try a bit of propagation.

Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) – annuals are great for impatient children and these are easy to grow – just sow seeds in pots in spring and you will have an abundance of hot-coloured flowers which can even be eaten in salads.

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) – if you plant a few of these within paving, they’ll break up monotonous slabs and release a great aroma whenever little gardeners tread on them

Stachy byzantina

Stachy byzantina

Lamb’s Ears (Stachys byzantina) – these leaves just have to be touched – so soft, so furry, so popular with little ones

Ornamental onion (Allium giganteum) – huge purple flowerheads tower over children, yet are simple enough for them to grow from a bulb

Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis) – very useful groundcover but it’s the leaves I love – they hold dew drops on their downy surface – apparently put their by fairies

Sweet Pea (Lathyris odorata) – these are fun to grow every season and best of all, children can pick their flowers everyday

Verbena bonariensis

Verbena bonariensis

Verbena (Verbena bonariensis) – I’ve never been convinced by the appeal of Buddlejas- they’re weeds in my book – so instead I use this wonderful plant to attract butterflies.  Beautiful purple flowers seen to float high above other plantings without blocking them out and they provide a great landing pad for butterflies galore

Chinese fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) – children love the tactile nature of grasses and this one has the added benefit of beautiful soft bristles in late summer

Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) – an obvious choice for many reasons; children can grow them with ease, they’ll tower above everyone in a matter of weeks and the heads form great birdfeeders when the flowers go over.

I’m sure I’ve missed out some worthy candidates so please feel free to let me know my inexcusable ommissions.  Right now though I’d best get back to reality and shift some more spent mushroom compost.

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The Perils of Designing on Your Doorstep

I’m guest blogging today on Landscape Juice, so click through if you want to find out how I’ve landed myself with the trickiest of design jobs – a garden with no space and even less budget for my son’s pre-school…

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Planting Sweet Peas

Having disappeared for a very long walk this morning – leaving Monkey Man (MM) in charge of all three kids – I felt I needed to put in some child-based time this afternoon.  I would have taken them outside, but it was drizzling and chilly, so far safer to do some indoor gardening.

I decided on a bit of sweet pea planting.  This offers a lot to keep children interested and it guaranteed MM an hour’s peace and quiet with Radio Five Live.

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First of all we made some eco-friendly plant pots.  For each one, you need a sheet of tabloid size newspaper which you fold in half then wrap around a suitable sized object (we used an old juice bottle) before sticking it together with sellotape. 

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You will have some excess newspaper below the base of your bottle which you simply fold upwards, shape around the bottle and sellotape it down to form the base of the pot.  Finally, simply slip your ‘pot’ off the bottle.

You can even create a pot without tape – if you’re adept at origami – just have a look at http://www.geocities.com/newspaperpots/.

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Now things get messy.  You will need to get a large bowl of compost from which the children can fill the pots.  I have a length of oil cloth which I use to cover the kitchen table for this sort of indoor gardening activity – you can buy this by the metre at any fabric shop.

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Once the pots are all full, you may need to exert some quality control, especially to check the compost has been pushed down gently to ensure there are no large air pockets.

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The children can make a 3cm deep planting hole in each pot using their own fingers and then they simply drop in a seed into each.  Be warned, the seeds are poisonous, but if you explain this and watch closely, there shouldn’t be a problem (most children baulk at eating soft green peas, so I can’t really see the appeal of small, hard brown ones). Also, make sure they wash their hands thoroughly afterwards.

I did soak my seeds for a few hours before planting.  This should help their germination, but it’s not absolutely necessary so feel free to skip this step.

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Once planted, cover the seed with the compost and water in (again, a very popular, if potentially messy activity).

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To make some of the pots look a little more interesting, we cut some thick paper to size and decorated it to form a plant pot cover.  You can do this by wrapping the paper around a slightly larger bottle and securing with sellotape.  This should then just slip over the sweet pea plant pot.

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Now simply place them on a windowsill and wait for the shoots to appear.  If you have a coldframe, you can move them out to this when they have 3-4 leaves.  If not, then just plant then straight outside when the soil warms up in May. 

You can put them directly in the ground, still in their newspaper pots.  This stops the roots being disturbed (which sweet peas resent) and the newspaper will simply rot away.  Remember to put some canes in the ground for them to climb or else place them near some trellis. 

lathyrus-odoratus

You should be enjoying flowers from June until August and best of all, picking the flowers prolongs the flowering, so the children can feel free to bring posies in to decorate the house.

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