If the weather is fine this Easter, (and it’s beginning to look like it might be), many parents will be wanting to sort out their gardens - and hopefully encouraging their children to give them a hand along the way.
Certainly, with National Gardening Week (April 14-20) on its way too — a scheme launched three years ago by the RHS to celebrate gardening with nationwide events — there really is no excuse not to get your little ones outdoors.
Andrea Fowler, horticultural educator at RHS Garden Wisley, points out that attracting wildlife, seed-sowing and vegetable-growing are all sources of inspiration to young gardeners.
“Spring is definitely here so we can be seed-sowing and planting in earnest. If you just want to get the children outside do an Easter egg hunt in the garden — there are also Easter holiday activities at all four RHS gardens over the holidays.
“If you’re sowing seeds with children, sow something that’s going to spark their imagination. Plant flower seeds which children will be excited about, like calendula — there’s a calendula called ‘Porcupine’ which is an extra spiky pot marigold. There’s also cornflower ‘Blue Boy’ and sunflowers, which everyone loves.
“Nasturtiums are fantastic and make great container plants so you don’t need to have a huge garden, you can just grow them in a window box. Herbs are also great.
“If you’re growing veg with children, have a go with ‘Pink Fir Apple’ potatoes (a maincrop variety with knobbly pink skinned tubers of butter yellow, waxy flesh) or purple potatoes, purple beans and yellow tomatoes, which will get them interested.”
Attracting wildlife into the garden will also engage the children, so help them build a mini-beast hotel (although autumn can be a better time to do this when wildlife is looking to hibernate).
A simple bug hotel can be made from a collection of hollow stems packed into a plastic bottle with the end cut off. Several hotels could be placed in different positions such as on the ground among vegetation, fixed on top of a post, next to a wall, half way up a hedge, in a tree, under a bird table. Grander bug hotels can be made by piling up a variety of materials into a tower, or making a wooden frame with a series of compartments and packing these with different fillings.
Remember rotting wood is both a home and source of food for various beetle grubs and a vast army of other mini-beasts, which in turn make a tasty snack for birds, hedgehogs and frogs, so leave an area of the garden wild and build a log pile with the children.
“Children also love worms. If you are working in the garden let them dig with a trowel and they’ll love it. But don’t let them chop the worms in half.”
You could also help your children make a bird cake, using fat, good quality wild birdseed, raisins, peanuts and grated cheese. Just leave the fat in a warm place to soften, put the other ingredients into a bowl, chop the fat into small pieces and add to the mixture, mixing it together using fingers or a spoon. Put the mixture into a yoghurt pot to hang from your bird table or roll into balls to place on it.
“We need to get the next generation inspired by gardening,” Fowler says.
And there’s no time like the present to do so.