Are you and your family venturing into the room outside? Peter Dowdall has some useful advice.
Much of the world’s population is currently on “gardening leave” and many people are taking this opportunity to venture, perhaps for the first time, into the wonderful world of gardens and the great outdoors.
As so many are confined to barracks with kids, what should we do to get the newest generation into the garden?
Well, the first thing to remember is that they don’t actually need as much reason and distraction as us older folk.
Most of them, depending on their age, will be happy just to be outside playing in the fresh air and getting dirty.
To take it up a level, start them off growing their own food. A few packets of seed is enough to get you started.
Sow them in a seed tray and leave either by the kitchen window-sill or, if you have a glasshouse, cold frame or polytunnel.
Depending on what you are sowing, you will begin to see germination within a few short days at this time of the year.
There’s lots of advice on growing edible plants but the simplest advice I can offer is to grow what you will eat and don’t grow too much.
No point growing beautiful veg if it’s going to be a battle to get them on the plate.
One packet of seed can contain sometimes up to 1,000 seeds so be careful not to sow them all at one time or you may be supplying the entire parish with lettuce for a few weeks during the summer.
When growing either edible or ornamental plants, it’s often much easier to use raised beds.
These can be raised simply with soil or by using materials like timber, stone or metal.
There are many ready-made and kit products available.
Everything from a simple timber kit for €20 or €30 which will last a few years, all the way up to raised beds dripping with design features such as self-watering systems, covers to keep out pests and improve growing conditions.
The Vegepod and Garden4Me are two of the “top of the class” raised planters which allow gardening at hip height and are ideal for all gardeners, even wheelchair users.
Though they will cost a bit more, requiring an investment of €300-€500 depending on size and detail, they are a lifetime purchase and worth every cent.
One of the biggest advantages of using one of these is that the plants can easily be kept pest-free.
Important obviously for plant quality but also for the kids as nothing can be as disheartening as coming out one day to see all your hard work undone in one night after the local slug population went on the rampage.
Raised beds and planters can be used for ornamental and bedding plants every bit as successfully as for edible plants.
The most important word in any gardener’s vocabulary is “patience”.
Nothing happens instantly in the garden.
If you are trying to get kids interested in the garden and looking for ideas to keep them entertained and stimulated during this period, some seeds will give results quicker than others.
Sunflowers, nastursiums, peas and beans will germinate quickly and once up and growing will nearly move in front of your eyes.
I don’t know if you learn patience or if you develop it but whether or which it’s an important skill or attribute for all of us, not just the kids.
If you can get them interested and get them out planting seeds, then they will innately understand that they have to wait for results.
It doesn’t just happen at the flick of a switch or the swipe of a screen.
We are all having to re-adjust and re-calibrate in these times and the garden is a great teacher.
Children will be able to educate a lot if us parents on the importance of wildflowers and bees as they are thankfully being taught so much in schools now and why not use this opportunity to make the garden a haven for wildlife.
Perhaps you have an area where you could establish a native wildflower patch.
Put in some plants which will berry and sustain birds during the winter.
Try creating some bug hotels, even simple log piles which don’t have to be large and can provide homes for bees and even hedgehogs during the winter months.
A small area holding water, it can be as big as a pond or as small as a birdbath will help to attract and hydrate everything from insects to birds and frogs.
These, in turn will feed on many common garden pests.
None of this is rocket science, Nature has been sustaining the rich tapestry for Millenia, all we need to do is help out a little bit, then stand back and admire and who knows, perhaps the next David Bellamy, Monty Don or David Attenborough will find his or her calling during this exciting period.
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