23 June 2017

Watch Things Grow


by William Green

Families who have small gardens and limited space have major problems inculcating the 'green' message to their children. In a small urban environment the ability to watch things grow and mature can be a procedure on which parents and children frequently miss out. Often work pressures prevent families from communing with nature much beyond their TV sets. Subsequently our knowledge can often become third-hand and too reliant upon the syndrome of 'phoning a friend'. We might know many answers, but ultimately miss out on a true experience.

Today's children know far too little about first-hand nature and certainly about gardening. Fruit and veg come wrapped and sanitised in polythene. The sensation of touching plants is merely a trip to the florist or supermarket and the notion of hands-on experience means another visit to anything alluding to IT. We should realise that the present generation of parents have been part of this continual weaning-off of growing plants that our grandparents saw as commonplace and the rapid movement towards a living that has demands for instant consumerism and neglect for simple self-sufficiency. So - what can we learn from previous generations which might rekindle that desire to acquaint our kids with growing things at home and the revival of an important experience?

To begin with, the exercise has to be a shared experience. Most mums and dads have not spent their formative years studying seed packets and tilling the earth! So, what will grow in their garden might be as big a mystery for them as it will be for their kids.

If you are keen and feel that growing things will enrich your home life, first read the literature - and there's plenty of it around! Ask yourselves whether the project will be a viable proposition: does your garden lend itself to setting up a growing plants regime for you and your kids? Have you the space and the time and - most important - the inclination to do it well....and that is the ability to sustain all the rigours of daily observations, frequent checking, occasional feeding and cleaning up both the kids and the garden, when necessary?

If you are still enthusiastic - and I hope you are - think of scale first. How big will your enterprise be? Are you going to grow your whole garden? If you do, your kids will most likely go and play in the park and leave the work for you. Therefore, I suggest you start with growing things in containers, where quickly you will know everyone's limitations, without committing yourselves too far and - to use a contemporary cliche (also a pun!) - be able to develop your joint project in bite-size amounts.

What containers do you use? Anything that has drainage at the bottom. The rest is governed by ambition, aspect and, of course, aesthetics. It all depends on how big you want to go, how much light you have in your garden and whether you think your thrown-out bath will be an eye-sore.

Once you have acquired your hardware, which includes good soil and compost, choose what you want to grow. Flowers, fruit, veg or the lot? Do you want to buy plants, or grow from seed, or both? Probably most important (as part of 'joint management', of course!) is to ask the kids what they want. When you have all made the pact that home growing is going to be such a great challenge and a profound experience for the whole family, ask them whether they have any burning ambitions on the subject of horticulture! Easier, perhaps, is to take the kids out shopping and guide them towards choosing suitable seeds and small plants that will embellish your pots and tubs. After that, complete your homework! You should know how and when to sow or plant and what garden pests to look out for.

If the management is good, everyone involved will enjoy the ensuing rewards - the tumbler strawberries, the quick-growing radishes, even the peas and beans - and remember, if you have sensitive, discerning and caring children, they might even tolerate the flowers as well!

Watch Things Grow

By William Green

Landscape and Garden Design Contact 01273 493076

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