mini gardeners

inspiring gardening projects for children


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The Little Red Hen Rebels

little red hen

“Who will help me plant these seeds?” asked the little red hen.

“Not I” came the reply. So the little red hen planted the seeds by herself.

“Who will help me water and weed the seedlings?” asked the little red hen.

“Not I” came the reply. So the little red hen weeded and watered by herself.

But today the little red hen despaired of doing everything herself. Not least because she was soon to take possession of an extra half allotment (more of which at a later date) and the current allotment wasn’t in the best shape.

So it was a three-line whip, all hands on deck, family effort for the Great Autumn Allotment Tidy Up.

And it’s AMAZING what progress you can make when you have four pairs of hands instead of one. We were busy weeding, trimming grass paths, clearing old crops and topping up bark paths, not to mention a healthy dose of moaning, arguing with siblings, taking time out for sulking, and complaining of being too hot, too cold, and hungry.

Despite all that, in no time at all the allotment was transformed from this:

allotment before autumn tidy up

Into this:

allotment after autumn tidy up

The next stage is to cover all the bare soil because bare soil over winter is a Bad Thing. All the gardening books warn of soil erosion and nutrient leaching but, just as important in my view, the local cats and foxes will view it as a custom-built toilet and it’ll be covered in weeds before you can say “spring is nearly here”.

So I’ll use a combination of mulching with homemade leafmould and compost, covering with weed control membrane and sowing green manure. I already have some Phacelia tanacetifolia growing which may overwinter if the weather isn’t too harsh.

Phacelia tanacetifolia (green manure)

I’ll dig this in at some point to improve the soil but as the flowers are attractive to bees and hoverflies, I’ve saved some seed and will be sowing a little patch next spring too.

And I’ll also be sowing some grazing rye in the next week as this is one the few green manures that can be sown up to the end of November, plus it copes well with the heavy clay soil on my allotment. This will be dug into the soil next spring. It’s a bit of an effort to dig it in, as is commonly reported, but it fits into my timescales well as I’m never ready to sow green manure any earlier than September/October.

I was so pleased with my allotment helpers that, as a reward for all their hard work, I’ll be including them in the next allotment task; the Horse Manure Project. I could tell they were thrilled, they were literally speechless.

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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.

Time for a haircut

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topiary rabbittopiary rabbit

You know how it is……. things get busy , you don’t have your hair cut for a while. Then you can’t do a thing with it and every day becomes a Bad Hair Day.

After a quick trim this afternoon our topiary rabbit can now hold his head up high and Bad Hair Days are a thing of the past.

We also gave him a long overdue feed. He’s about 3 years old and the plant inside the frame – box (Buxus sempervirens) – is filling out nicely.

A lot less trouble than a real rabbit 🙂

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No children please, we’re British

As well as being a terribly British affair, the Chelsea Flower is no place for children.  Children under 5 are banned and it’s usually so crowded that you wouldn’t wish to risk having your over 5s squashed.  But there’s still plenty of inspiration at Chelsea for child-friendly family gardens.

insect house chelsea flower show 2013

This enormous insect house was constructed on the end of a shed – a great project for an ambitious school gardening club?

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