GARDENING – THE COMPLETE EDUCATION
Contact with the natural world can be incredibly nurturing for children, making a connection with their natural environment, helping them learn about nature, the seasons and weather – and much, much more. And, importantly, get them away from their screens! So, go gardening with your kids – they’ll love getting their hands dirty!
Gardening can also be an integral part of teaching a whole host of other topics. Many schools use it within the National Curriculum as part of the teaching timetable. So, if you’re homeschooling, you too can incorporate gardening within these subjects. Gardening also supports many government priorities, such as sustainability, healthy eating, food and eco-subjects, such as climate change.
Just about every subject can be taught through gardening.
- English Spell plant names, starting off with their common names, such as English marigold and sunflower and, for older or more advanced children, their botanical name – Calendula officinalis and Helianthus annuus. What do these words mean? Some have fascinating or useful meanings.
- Maths Sow some seeds and then count the number of leaves the resulting plants produce and how many flowers. Put 20 seeds on a damp kitchen towel on a saucer and count how many germinate; multiply this by 5 to get the percentage germination.
- IT Input any maths data to produce graphs and charts.
- Art Plants are brilliant to draw, paint or used to make collages.
- Geography Most plants we grow aren’t British natives but originate from around the world. Lavender is a native of the Mediterranean, which is somewhere you may have been on holiday or are planning to visit.
- History These plants were found growing wild in these countries and were brought back to our shores by famous plant hunters – the Indiana Jones of their times.
- Science What do all the different parts of a plant do? How do plants grow? It’s magic – they use the energy in sunlight to convert the carbon dioxide they remove from the air (reducing climate change) to make their food and a “waste” product – oxygen; plants are the lungs of the planet, keeping us all alive.
A quick internet search will come up with lots of resources. The Gardening with Children website – https://www.gardeningwithchildren.co.uk – has some great hints, tips and ideas and your children can even join its Club.
If you don’t have a garden, or can’t get outside, there are lots of things your children can do indoors that is gardening related.
When thinking about which projects to get them involved with and growing, it’s important to keep them engaged. Choose plants that grow quickly and easily – so they can see the results as fast as possible without getting bored or losing interest.
Growing mustard and cress is quick and dead easy, or even try growing microgreens (those pinches of very expensive greens you get in posh restaurants) – if your children want to be “on trend”! All you need is a sunny windowsill, some seeds and compost. You don’t even need plant pots – old yoghurt pots or even the shells of boiled eggs can be used as a pot. Just make sure there are some drainage holes made in the bottom – and then paint them or draw faces on them for some extra fun.
To make sure seeds germinate quickly and grow into strong, healthy plants fast means you need a good quality compost. Coco & Coir’s Coco Grow+ contains natural coir and perlite, which keeps the compost loose and airy, ensuring better root growth, resulting in better plant growth. Ask your children where coir comes from (it’s from coconuts!) and what perlite is.
And it’s dead easy and fun to use. Simply put the lightweight, easy to carry, compressed Coco Grow coir brick in a bucket or other container, add warm water and watch it grow as it absorbs the water. Then, fluff it up with a fork and you’re all ready to add it to the pots.
Most children will probably love getting outside and scrabbling around in the dirt! They can help you with all your gardening jobs, but to really nurture their interest, give them their own dedicated area, where they can grow whatever they like.
Growing some vegetables is probably the most rewarding, as they also get something to eat at the end of it, and learn where food comes from. They may even come to love Brussels sprouts forever!
Again it’s important to suggest plants that are quick maturing. Salad crops and cut-and-come-again lettuces are good choices. And you can create some mystery by growing root crops – the excitement of digging up or pulling up a carrot plant to discover the carrot is insatiable. Radishes are the quickest to mature.
Growing sunflowers is a standard for children – again because they grow so quickly and you can almost watch them reach to the sky before your eyes. Who can grow the biggest? If you allow the seed heads to mature, you’ll have your own sunflower seeds you can eat, or hang them up in the garden for a treat for our feathered friends.
Failure can lead to disinterest, so make sure they’re gardening endeavours have the best chance of success.
Digging over the soil in their garden area and working in some bulky organic matter at the same will ensure everything grows well and quickly. A lovely, crumbly soil that holds plenty of moisture and nutrients in summer is essential for good plant growth. Coco & Coir’s Coco Grow, which is based on coir, is perfect for creating the ideal rooting and growing conditions for all plants. The coir helps keep the soil loose, open and airy, ensuring better root growth, and it holds lots of water and plant nutrients, making them available to the plants. Like all Coco & Coir coir brick products, it is dead easy to use and will help their plants grow to perfection.
If you want to make their first exploration into the world of gardening easier, spreading an organic mulch over the soil around their plants will reduce time spent weeding and watering. A 5-7.5cm (2-3in) thick mulch will help prevent weed growth by up to 90% and reduce water loss from the soil. Coco & Coir’s Coco Chip+ is just as easy to use as the Coco Grow coir bricks.
If you can’t give them an area of the garden, they can make a potted garden or container garden. All plants can be grown in containers and they’re a bit easier to look after – although they will need to water them regularly.
The secret of success here is to use a top-quality potting compost that will sustain the plants throughout their lives and help get the results you – and they – want. Coco & Coir’s Coco Boost has all the benefits of Coco Grow, but with all the added nutrients plants need to get off to the best possible start. Then it’s just a matter of adding a liquid fertiliser once a week when they water.