mini gardeners

inspiring gardening projects for children


Teeny Tiny Gardening

Teeny Tiny Gardening Book

‘Teeny Tiny Gardening’ by Emma Hardy (published by Cico Books) is not a children’s gardening book but it contains lots of projects that would be perfect for attempting with children.

Even if you don’t try any of the projects, the book is a delight to browse with its beautifully styled photographs and clear step-by-step instructions.  There’s something very appealing about small, bite-sized gardening projects, giving you the feeling that you could achieve great things before you’ve even finished breakfast.

Some of the projects I’ll be adding to our must-try list are:

Cacti in glasses from Teeny Tiny Gardening

Simple but inspired; a fresh approach to displaying cacti and much more attractive than the usual arrangement of a few random cacti in non-matching pots on a dusty windowsill. My daughters already have a small collection of cacti each – they’re great plants for children (and adults) who aren’t too good at remembering to water –  and displaying them like this will be a simple step. These would also make lovely little gifts.

guttering garden by Teeny Tiny Gardening

I’ve seen vegetable seedlings growing in guttering before and I really like these painted pieces of guttering attached to the side of a shed. Great if you have limited space and I’m thinking they could also be used for growing lettuce in a school garden.

And my absolute favourite;

green roof birdhouse from Teeny Tiny Gardening

I’ve been toying with the idea of putting a green roof on our garden shed for some time but have been put off by the fact that I’d need to strengthen the shed with internal batons first.  And woodwork is not one of my strong points; I nearly cut my finger off in one of the first woodwork lessons at school and things haven’t improved much since then.  But the instructions say that only basic woodwork skills are needed and a slightly rough finish adds to the overall charm, so I’m very tempted to give it a go. Watch this space.

Not all of the projects in the book are to my taste (the planted suitcase and chair for example are a bit too contrived for me and won’t be finding a home in my garden) but with 35 projects there’s something for everyone. Overall a rather charming little book and a big thumbs up from us.

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Release Your Inner Squirrel

Acorn cups

Is it just me or is collecting acorns seriously addictive?

I can’t go out at the moment without returning with pockets stuffed full of acorns. I thought I’d offload some on the school gardening club but I was greeted with looks of horror all round when I announced we’d be planting tree seeds. A  group of forward-thinking 7 year olds demanded to know exactly what we were going to do with all those oak trees. A very good question (that’s what I always say when I’m stumped for an answer and playing for time) which needed a convincing answer.  So….

Firstly, it’s unlikely that all the acorns will germinate.

Secondly, if there’s a squirrel within a 50 mile radius, we’ve got a battle on our hands.

Thirdly, as we’re growing the trees in pots, the probability of keeping a small tree alive for a couple of years before it’s big enough to be planted out is around 20%*.

Fourthly, even if we decide to compost the young trees before they get too big, we’ve still learned a lot from collecting, planting and tending the seeds, not to mention thinking about plant life cycles.

Fifthly, we have a tree nursery at school for small trees that pupils don’t want to take home. Those that eventually get too big for the nursery will either be planted in the school grounds, or donated to the local gardening college or park.

That seemed to do the trick (phew), we planted our acorns and nearly all of them took the pots home.

If you’ve never tried planting tree seeds before, release that inner squirrel and give it a go. Acorns, conkers or sweet chestnuts are all good for beginners as they tend to have reasonable rates of success.

horse chestnut trees grown from conkers

There’s not much to it really – bury the seed in some soil and forget about it until next spring. To increase your chances of success you can follow a few simple tips:

  • Collect the plumpest seeds and discard any that show signs of damage (harsh, but it’s survival of the fittest).
  • Plant straight away. All these seeds can die if they’re allowed to dry out. If you want to show off, the technical term is “recalcitrant seed”.
  • Try the sink or swim test before planting, to select seeds which have the best chance of germinating.
  • Remove anything that isn’t seed i.e. acorn cups, conker and sweet chestnut casings.
  • Plant in a small pot (must have drainage holes) and ensure the seed is covered with its own depth of compost.  Or plant directly into the ground if you prefer.
  • Water and cover with some sort of netting, otherwise the squirrels WILL find them and steal them.
  • Leave outside to experience the full extremes of winter weather.

Shoots should appear some time in the spring.

And finally, I leave you with the results of the most glamorous acorn competition.

Acorns possibly from the Turkey Oak (Quercus cerris)

I think this is the Turkey Oak (Quercus cerris), or a hybrid of the Turkey Oak, and we’re loving those frivolous, frilly acorn cups.

* An entirely made up figure but you can’t beat a well-placed statistic.

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TLC for Family Lawns

family lawn in autumn

If, like us, you have a lawn in your family garden, chances are it will have suffered this summer. Drout, football, picnics, running races, water slides, tennis, bbqs, swingball and the list goes on.

This was our lawn a week ago.  Slightly wild and in need of cutting, but it doesn’t look too bad on the whole. From a distance. But look closer and all sorts of horrors lurk beneath. Continue reading