mini gardeners

inspiring gardening projects for children


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Diary of a Guerrilla Gardener

guerrilla gardening in street tree pits

Inspired by all the reports of community gardening around London, we have the urge to “green up” some neglected land. After a quick street survey, we decide to start with the tree pit outside our house.

A bit of research on guerrilla gardening reveals that a key element to planting tree pits is to choose low value, tough plants as there is a reasonable probability they will get trampled, damaged or stolen. And even without all that, tree pits are not the most hospitable environments for little plants with poor, compacted soil and the competition of a mature tree for water and nutrients. We just happen to have a surplus of geraniums that have been sat around in trays for weeks so they seem like the ideal candidates.

The biggest surprise in our guerrilla gardening experiment is just how bad the soil in the tree pit is. It might have been easier to break through concrete but we persevere despite some strange looks from passers-by. It’s fortunate that we chose plants with small rootballs because I don’t think we would have been able to chisel out holes any bigger.

We add a bit of compost in a vain attempt to try and improve the soil, plant the geraniums and water copiously. We top with a bit of bark as a mulch and a sprinkle of wildflower seed balls.

It all looks quite smart and we feel pleased with ourselves.

guerrilla gardening in street tree pits

We pop out every few days to water our new plants and several neighbours comment on how lovely it looks. It’s all going really well and we decide we might expand our guerrilla gardening horizons to something altogether more ambitious.

A week later we notice a large, sloppy circle of dog poo in the middle of the geraniums (sorry to be so graphic, hope you’re not eating). Cue lots of muttering about irresponsible dog owners. My husband suggests that it might provide a source of manure for the plants, “looking on the bright side”.

guerrilla gardening in street tree pits

Then a day later, on the other side of the tree pit, the bark has been removed. Completely removed, there isn’t a trace of bark left.  And half of the plants are gone too.  Seriously, what kind of person would do something like that? Someone worse than an irresponsible dog owner, that’s for sure.  Now considering installing CCTV outside our house to catch the culprits should they decide to strike again.

guerrilla gardening in street tree pits

The seed balls have all disappeared with the bark too, so if you spot anyone around London with a small amount of bark that suddenly starts sprouting wildflowers, do let us know.

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Summer holidays and a trip down memory lane

make your own garden notebook

Day 3 of the school summer holidays and I’ve already had the urge to retreat to a darkened room and sob quietly.

But you’ll be pleased to hear that I managed to pull myself together and we spent the afternoon doing something much more constructive; making garden notebooks.

The inspiration for this came from our big summer project – decluttering the house. We’ve lived here for 19 years and we’re a family of hoarders, so a huge clear out is long overdue. Yesterday’s cupboard revealed all sorts of lovely letters written by my daughters when they were much younger, back in a time when it was completely normal for them to write me notes telling me that they loved me. No surprise that they’re hugely embarrassed by this now.

And I’d forgotten that I’d gone through a phase of buying them notebooks for various holidays and getting them to write/draw holiday diaries. We spent ages reading through those and we still haven’t quite finished clearing that cupboard out.  That sparked the idea of making some garden notebooks to record all of the gardening we’ll be doing over the coming weeks.

We made our notebooks from some white card and printer paper, bound together with garden twine and an embroidery needle. If you don’t feel like decorating your own notebook you could download this beautifully illustrated garden notebook cover instead.

And finally, my favourite letter from our trip down memory lane was from my eldest daughter and it went along the lines of: “Dear Mummy, I am very sorry for the pretend kick. It won’t happen again. I am so very sorry. PS Could I have a banana please?”.


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Playing with Nettles

grow your own nettle fertiliser

It’s a high risk strategy, I know. My arms are still tingling as I write, so bare arms aren’t recommended. But if you have a patch of young nettles nearby, you can make a brilliant liquid plant food for free.

Rich in nitrogen (needed for leafy growth), it’s a good spring boost for plants in general, and particularly good for:

  • leafy plants and vegetables, such as brassicas
  • container plants, which need regular feeding
  • vegetable plots where intensive cropping and hungry crops have depleted the soil of nutrients
  • anything that is looking a bit sad and yellow but should really be green and happy.

Also, given the huge amounts of rain we’ve had over the last few months and its associated nutrient leaching, plants and garden soils may be in need of a bit of TLC.

Apart from trying hard to avoid being stung, nettle fertiliser couldn’t be easier to make.

Step 1 Collect the leaves and stems of young nettles, place in a bucket or trug:

making nettle fertiliser for plants

Step 2 Cover with water. Some people suggest weighing down the nettles with a brick but this is a refinement I don’t bother with.

making nettle fertiliser for plants

Step 3 Leave outside for 2 to 3 weeks. Probably best not to leave it right by your back door as it gets VERY smelly.  It’s fine if rain tops the water level up from time to time. (If you have small children you may want to consider covering the container on safety grounds.)

Step 4 Allow a child to stir vigorously with a large stick whilst the fertiliser is maturing. This bruises the leaves and helps the process along. Most “recipes’ for nettle fertiliser suggest bruising the fresh leaves before immersing in water. But I know from bitter experience that’s a stinging disaster waiting to happen.

Step 5 Pour off the liquid into another bucket and put the discarded nettles on the compost heap. The fertiliser will be strong (as evidenced by the smell!) so it’ll need to be diluted – the rough guide is 1 part fertiliser to 10 parts water. Use the diluted fertiliser to water plants in need of a boost.

A bit later in the season we’ll switch to comfrey fertiliser. Made in exactly the same way, this has higher levels of potassium which is good for flower and fruit development.