Gardening 3

More gardening ideas for kids

On this page you will find articles by Bev Boorer and Helen Evanson:

For other articles, click on the headings at the side -Gardening 1 and Gardening 2

Kids and Cacti by Bev

If you live in a flat or high-rise and donít have access to any piece of earth to call your own, you can still give your children an appreciation of nature by encouraging them to grow cacti. Itís possible to grow several different types together in the one shallow dish to create more interest. Most cacti are relatively tough. All they need is good drainage and you can potting mix especially for them so you just canít go wrong.

Many cacti have lovely blooms, but while your kids are waiting for the flowers, they can enjoy something a bit unusual if you get them a Lithop Ė otherwise known as a Stone Mimic because they resemble the pebbles of their natural habitat. There are many different kinds or various colours and markings and flowers. Lithops optica rubra is an unusual brownish/pink colour. Others can be a kind of dark teal.

But donít stop with the Lithops. If you are going for variety, try an Echinopsis multiplex for its beautiful pink flowers with pointed petals, or the little round Notocactus genus that has large, bright yellow flowers. Zygocactus truncates or Christmas Cactus is popular and pretty, but doesnít like draughts or erratic watering so might not be all that good for kids. 

You donít want your kids to get a handful of prickles, so show them how to handle their cacti like this. Fold a sheet of newspaper into a long, thick wad, wrap it around the plant and hold the ends. Be careful not to break off the spines, because they donít grow again and the cacti will look tatty.

If you think cacti might not be the thing for your kids, try simple succulents instead. They have similar needs to cacti and are mostly very hardy. Or add some succulents to the dish as well as cacti. Sempervivums and sedum are both hardy and like hot, dry climates. Go for variety in the shapes of the leaves. You can get succulents with fat round leaves or long and pointy ones, stripes, spots and edged Ė and everything in between. Kids will love to decorate their cacti dish or tray with tiny ornaments, coloured rocks, shells or interestingly shaped pieces of driftwood they have found.

A garden of their own by Bev

Kids will be delighted to Ďowní a piece of ground and the best place for growing flowers is in the sun. You could dig up just a small patch especially forthem somewhere in the lawn so it is removed from the main garden, or you might prefer to section off a piece on the edge of your own garden. Make it small enough that the child does not feel overwhelmed in caring for it. About 90 cm square would be a good size to start with.

Your child will be able to care for the garden more easily if he can access it from all sides. Remember their arms are not as long as your own. If youíve included it in your own garden,a stepping-stone on each side will encourage little feet to keep away from plants that might be damaged.

Plants for children should be hardy, quick growers and have bright flowers or something to eat them  hem. It is also a good idea to use the kinds that can be planted straight into the garden. These are:

  • Sweet Alyssum,

  • calendula,

  • clarkia,

  • coreopsis,

  • godetia

  • gypsophilia,

  • marigolds,

  • nasturtium, poppies and sunflowers.

  • Pansies, violas and petunias are also good choices.

If your child is reasonably patient, encourage them to buy the mixed seed packet especially for a        childís garden. There will be quite enough seed in that for one small garden.

Another idea is to buy the plants in punnets or flats as some people call them. This will give a quicker result, though half the fun of gardening is to see the seeds sprout up and then watch the flowers develop.


Kids 'n Gardening - Forget-Me-Nots by Bev Boorer

One of the most delightful and easy flowers for kids to grow in the summer are forget-me-nots. They are so easy to grow, they can be sown directly into the garden and if you guide your budding gardener towards a shady spot, the rich blue colour will be more pronounced.

Help your child buy a small bag of seed-raising mix to cover the seed with, or give them an old kitchen sieve to make sure the garden soil is really free of lumps, bumps and gravel so that it can be used instead. They will be sure to spend many satisfying minutes with such a delightfully grubby chore.

If you think the job of watering regularly may be forgotten occasionally, show them how to top their sown seed with a good sprinkle of mown grass or other fine mulch to help conserve the moisture.

Snails love forget-me-nots, so be sure to place snail bait at strategic intervals, warning your child not to touch it. Better still, make a simple and safe snail bait by burying a small container in the soil nearby, fill with beer and sprinkle with bran. The snails, attracted to the smell, will fall in and drown.

Once forget-me-nots are established, they will self-seed readily, popping up with no effort from the little gardener. Your child will be delighted to have such pretty flowers to take to the teacher, or to decorate their room with.


Hanging Baskets - by Bev

Kids will be delighted to have their very own hanging basket to grow pretty flowers in. If your child is only young, hang the basket at a comfortable level so they can plant and water it easily. If you think a low hanging basket may be a nuisance on the veranda or porch, try hanging it from a tree outside, or find a sunny corner where it will not trip others up.

Nolana is an easy to grow flower that is suited to hanging baskets. The seed should be kept moist until it germinates, and your child will be thrilled to see tiny green shoots emerge from the seed-raising mix. These plants need plenty of water, so if your child is really enthusiastic with the watering can, as many young ones are, donít worry. Itís probably the best thing they could do to keep their flowers growing happily.

Many small watering cans donít have a rose spray on the spout. Heavy watering may then tend to wash the soil from the roots of plants or even wash young plants right out. If you canít find a watering can with a rose spray, clean out a small food tin and knock several holes in the bottom of it using a hammer and nail. This is a good project for an older child. A bucket of water placed near the hanging basket will then keep your child absorbed for ages as they scoop the water up with the tin and watch it drain from the holes.

There are plenty of other flowers that will grow happily in a hanging basket, so donít limit your child to just one. Several varieties growing in profusion will make an eye-catching ornament. Just make sure that you choose flowers that all like the same conditions; that is sun or shade. 

Hanging baskets do tend to dry out more quickly than other pots, so a sheltered position out of the wind is best.


Autumn bulbs- by Bev

There are so many easy-to-grow and colourful bulbs around itís a shame for kids not to plant some of them. Though early autumn is the best time to plant bulbs, itís not too late even now to slip some in.

Bulbs can be happy in pots or out in the garden. Let your child handle the bulbs to get a sense of wonder that something living and pretty can come from a plain old brown bulb. Show them the end where the roots will form Ė itís usually the rounded end. That means the pointy end has to face upwards. Most kids will choose the other way around if you ask them.

If they have their own piece of garden space, they could first plant the bulbs in a small pot, then bury this in their garden. They get double the fun then, and it will help them to remember where the bulbs are and prevent them being accidentally dug up or pulled up in mistake for weeds when they shoot. Another good idea is to mark the spot with a pretty butterfly stake purchased from nursery or supermarket.

A fun project could be for your child to plant one of the bulbs sideways or even upside down in a pot, then in a few weeks dig it up carefully to see whatís happening. It may surprise them to see that the bulb knows which way is up!


Kids 'n spuds- by Bev

A fun project for kids to try out in the cold winter months is to grow a potato in a pot. While potatoes need to be planted in the spring, if you have a sunny, sheltered place for the pot where it wonít get frost on it, then the potato should grow slowly.

Next time you are peeling potatoes, look for the Ďeyeí and cut it out with a good bit of  the potato.  If you canít see any, keep the spud in a warm dark place for a week or two and watch it sprout. If the potato is small, you could plant it whole.

Half-fill a medium/large sized pot with potting mix, add some fertiliser then place the piece of potato in with the cut side down. Cover over with about 2cm of potting mix. When the shoot is about 2cm above the surface, cover it again. Do this three or four times and it wonít be long before youíll be able to see little potatoes growing in the pot underneath. As they grow bigger, theyíll push the potting mix up.

Let your child pull the potato up and see how the little ones cling to the roots. Wash them and microwave for a tasty treat. Be sure to wear gardening gloves when handling potting mix, and wash hands thoroughly afterwards.


Kids 'n sunflowers- by Bev

It will soon be spring in Australia and thatís the time to plant sunflowers. Kids are often attracted to something that is big and bright, so they are sure to love growing sunflowers. If they can make a cubby-house out of them too, then their delight will know no bounds.

Sunflowers need a sheltered spot in full sun. The modern varieties are not as tall as the olden day ones, but Bronze Shade will grow to 150 cm - tall enough for a small childís cubby.

Help your child to draw out a square or circle in their garden. It must be big enough to stand in. Allow a little more room than you think they will need - this will allow room for leaves and stalks to sway in the breeze. Donít forget to leave a gap for the door. Make a furrow along your marked out shape and carefully plant the sunflower seeds about 5 cm apart, following the directions on the packet.

Sunflowers are quite hardy plants and will grow well without too much attention, but make sure they get enough water as they grow. As soon as they start getting tall enough and have several leaves, start to plait the leaves of each around the stalks of the plants next to it. This will eventually form a leafy wall and the children will enjoy Ďhidingí inside. This can also be done with sweet corn.

When the flowers or corn are ripe, the children can have the fun of pulling and eating the corn, or saving the sunflower seeds to grow next year, or to feed the birds with. An enterprising child may even decide to sell some of the seed to friends with birds.


Kids 'n beans -by Bev

Spring! At last itís here - and whatís the best thing for kids to grow in the springtime? Something that is easy to handle, germinates within two weeks and grows quickly enough to see. And the kids can pick it and eat it raw for natureís healthiest snack. Beans!

Beans come in various forms, so your kids wonít be bored if they grow some of each and keep a record of their comparisons. Stringless dwarf are the most popular type of bean, but try the yellow butter beans for variety, while the runner beans with their scarlet flowers would make a showy splash of colour climbing over the fence or up a trellis. These beans are perennials, growing up from thecrown in the second year. They look a bit tough when raw, but when cooked are juicy and tender.

The snake bean is another interesting variety that kids would love to grow. The beans can grow really long, but should be picked for eating when about 30cm. For fun, suggest the kids leave some to grow for next yearís seed, so they can measure just how long the pods get. Some grow close to a metre. Follow the instructions on the packet for each variety.

If your kids are old enough they can make a bean tepee by tying three or four long garden stakes together at one end, then spread out the untied ends so that the tepee stands evenly. Plant three seeds around the base of each stake. Encourage the young bean plants to climb the stakes by propping their tendrils against the stake with a few twigs, or tie them gently on with a piece of string.


Growing tomatoes- by Bev

Tomatoes are one of the easiest and most rewarding plants to grow. The seed likes warmth to germinate, so if spring comes in cold in your area, show the kids how to keep seeds warm to start them off early. Simply cut the top off a clear plastic drink bottle and upend it over the pot and seed. Stand in a bright place - but not full sun - until it germinates.

There are so many different kinds of tomatoes, your kids could have a tomato contest to see which kind grew the best and produced the most, biggest, sweetest or earliest tomatoes. They could keep notes on which tomatoes germinated first, had flowers first and ripened first. They could even keep a visual record if you have a digital camera.  From tiny cherry tomatoes, though to egg-shaped tomatoes and even the giants, itís all great fun. You can get pink, red or yellow - and even splotchy, streaky tomatoes. Try looking for the seed of unusual tomatoes from specialty nurseries like Diggers. Your kids might even like to grow a salad with the addition of lettuce, cucumber and corn to their tomato patch.


Winter weather- by Bev

When the sleet or rain is driving down and the wind is knife-sharp, most adults donít want to even think about gardening. Kids are different. They donít care so much about muddy shoes and cold winds as long as they are having fun. So let your kids loose in the garden with warm clothes and old shoes or boots to protect them from the elements. But what can kids grow in the winter garden?

Experts tell us that our children are not eating enough vegetables to remain healthy, so if you can encourage your kids to grow veggies, they will be more likely to take an interest in eating them. Some winter vegetables that are easy to grow are spinach, broad beans and even peas if your frosts are not too severe. Peas are great because they grow quickly and easily and the kids can pick and eat them raw for a nutritious snack.

Broad beans and spinach are quite hardy and easy to grow, too. Although the latter may not be a childís favourite food, if they have a hand in growing, picking and cooking Ďtheirí vegetable, they might just decide the taste is quite okay. Spinach will withstand heavy frosts easily and the seed is easy for little fingers to handle. It germinates fairly easily and quickly too, another plus for children who are always impatient to see the results of their labour. Broad beans have an added advantage - that pretty red flower to make the garden look attractive, if only for a short time.


Kids and cold frames- by Bev

A cold frame is simply an old window frame with the glass still in it, or else covered with clear plastic. It is placed over young plants in the garden to provide protection from frosts and bitter winds. It could be made from an old screen door from the second-hand place or the rubbish tip, an old shower screen or any other kind of frame over which you can tack some plastic.

You can go to the trouble of building a matching frame for the garden and lay the cold frame over the top, or you can simply prop one end up with rocks, a bale of hay or a box, and let the ground support the other end. Allowing the frame to be on a slant will let the rain slide off more easily and make the most use of the winter sun. Slope the frame so that it faces north - into the sun. If wind is harsh in your area, pack earth or hay around the open sides to provide even more shelter.

The ideal vegetable to grow under a cold frame is lettuce. Little kids will eat almost anything, so this is the time to train them into eating their vegetables. Let the kids pick the leaves off and dip them in a cup of water to wash them before munching. By using a cold frame you can plant out spring vegetables such as tomatoes much earlier than normal, thus extending your growing period.

An easy way to encourage kids into the garden in cold winter weather is to allow them to grow something in a pot. The pot can be placed in a sunny, sheltered nook and even have a miniature cold frame placed over the top to encourage germination. This can be as simple as a square of plastic held down at the sides with a couple of rocks or pieces of timber. Or stretch it over the pot and tie it down with string. A potato with shoots, some tomato seeds, herbs or almost anything else will grow in the winter, in this way. Encourage your child to experiment and see just what he can grow.


Bark pictures- by Helen

Winter is a great time to collect bark to make some pictures. Many trees shed bark and pieces can be found on the ground. We shouldnít pull bark from the trees as it protects the trees from insects and disease. In Australia we have gum trees of many different types so it is easy to find this bark. The bark will be of different textures as well as colours. Some will be soft from paperbark trees such as melaleucas, some will be flat and hard, some soft and curly. Other trees shed bark too. Break the bark into small pieces and sort them into colours. Use a piece of thick cardboard for the picture and stick the bark on with PVA glue which dries clear. Kids can make a pattern or even bark people and animals. On a sunny day, set up a place outside where the kids can create their pictures.


Growing silver beet

Silver beet is easy to grow either from seeds or from plants. This vegetable would be ideal in those galvanised containers that Bunnings have been providing to schools. Beet doesnít like to be planted close to herbs, cucumbers, melons, corn and potato, but does well near tomatoes and beans which are also rewarding vegetables for kids to grow. The silver beet leaves will be ready to pick in about 7 weeks so the kids will be able to harvest them before the year ends. The roots will even sprout again after cutting off so is an economical vegetable to grow at home too. It is between 5 and 8 years that kids like to help in the kitchen, and washing the leaves of the silver beet ready for cooking, is another activity that even toddlers can enjoy.


Growing corn

Corn is a great vegetable for kids to grow:

  •  the seeds are easy to handle

  • they come up quickly

  • the plants are soon tall

  • they need very little care

  • in 10 or 11 weeks the carn is ready to eat

  • most kids like eating corn

Help your child to prepare the garden by weeding and digging and marking rows about 30 cms apart. Tell the kids to plant two seeds in each hole about 3 cms deep and about 30 cms apart too. Several short rows are best as the plants are pollinated by the wind. The kids will like to water them in well, but then no more watering is necessary until the shoots appear. One plant in each hole will be stronger than the other, so pull out the weaker one. Because corn will grow tall, other plants can be put underneath them to get protection from the sun. The kids will also like to measure themselves against the corn and feel the soft tassels as the cobs develop.


Dealing with weeds

While looking for some suitable gardening activity for children I found a weed destroyer on the web. It included a recipe for a non toxic weed killer. Here is the website,

I have halved the amounts given there. It will be sufficient unless the section to be weeded is very large.

  • 1 litre vinegar
  • 1quick squirt of liquid soap (dishwashing or hand is ideal)
  • 1/2 cup salt*
  • A spray or pump bottle
  • A funnel (optional)

Pour the vinegar, liquid soap and salt into the bottle (using the funnel if desired). Shake thoroughly to combine. Head outside and spray on weeds in your garden.

*Caroline, the author of the blog that contains the above recipe, warns that salt may affect the soil so it can be left out or less put into the spray. Take care not to spray plants you want.

I remember how I hated digging out weeds when as a child, I tried to claim a section of garden for myself. The weeds always got the better of me. If Iíd had someone to prepare a garden bed for me, Iíd have kept it weeded.


Making a rockery or play garden

This is cheap and fun to make with your pre-schooler. It can be a grassy or pebbly or stoney area and your child can put anything into it. It can be dug up ready for planting or it can be left undug depending on what your child wants.

Arrange old bricks or rocks to define the area. It might have sand or gravel, a log, some flower pots, small toys, digging tools, plastic bugs, and some plants from the nursery chosen by your child. I saw some lovely examples at  and  


Wood gathering.

Our spring garden is already planted with bulbs, polyanthus, primula and ranuncula, there has been lots of rain, and the weeds arenít growing much at the moment. Our gardening activities have changed to wood gathering instead, and my family drove out to the bush to gather wood at the weekend. It was quite an energetic activity as we not only walked through the bush but dragged branches to the trailer for cutting later. It was an opportunity to look at native plants such as banksias which were flowering, and the tiny flowers and ferns that always seem to grow in the grass, and to point out prickly plants that should be avoided. There is little danger of snakes at the moment but still need to be cautious and my still three year old granddaughter got a leech on her ankle. It was her first experience of this creature and she wanted to know why it was in the bush. Her Dad explained that its home is in the bush. Her dismay stopped as soon as it was removed and it didnít stop her from continuing her wood gathering. Will you have an opportunity to walk in the bush this winter? There are lots of plants to see, different fragrances to smell, birds to listen to and watch and if you collect some bark, the kids could paint it  as a craft activity.


Music in the garden

Have you thought of musical activities for the children in the garden? If you have a big lawn or grassed area it will be an ideal movement or dancing space for the three to eight-year-olds. Paved areas would also be suitable. Take a disc player into the garden to provide the music and pick some long stemmed flowers, some sprays of leaves or long grass, or take some scarves and ribbons into the garden as aids to dance. Fallen petals from roses, poppies, camellias, azaleas flowers etc. are also a lovely aid when thrown into the air to float down. Another idea is to place hoops or rope circles on the grass and when the music plays the children sprinkle petals into them or drop them in trails to link the circles together. If you donít have a portable disc player, use bells that the children can hold to make their own music. If you join in too, the children will love it more. The music will suggest movements from simple arm and hand movements, to galloping skipping and running. Afterwards, the petals, twigs etc can go in the compost or small children can be encouraged to use them in sandpit or imaginative fairy games.


Kids love to be in the garden

Most parents find that gardening with their kids is rewarding and fun. Preschool kids donít concentrate at anything for very long and this doesnít seem to matter in the garden because there are such a variety of things to do.

Kids like

  • pulling weeds
  • shoving grass into a wheelbarrow
  • looking for creepy crawlies
  • picking leaves and flowers
  • smelling plants
  • scattering grass seed
  • raking and digging
  • counting flowers
  •  picking and eating strawberries, beans and other edible produce.

If you have only a small space available for gardening, put it on the fence boundaries as this leaves plenty of space for running and other games that need space. Kids need only a small area or a few pots for their own gardening. Herbs with interesting aromas or quick growing flowers like nasturtiums or petunias are great. Potatoes or tomatoes are ideal in big pots and are easy to net from birds. Take the children to buy the plants or seeds and plant them together. Inspect every few days and be sure to show your enthusiasm as the plants grow.


Fairy gardens

At preschool my granddaughter enjoys playing in the fairy garden. There is a set of toadstools there for the children to sit on and they are encouraged to dress up when going into this section of the playground. Not many people will have toadstools in their garden, but you and the kids could turn a part of the garden into a fairy area with help from your children.

  • Choose a shady spot under a tree or bush, or find a spot hidden away between a fence and a bush.
  • Use stones, mats or logs for seats
  • Hang streamers on the bush or fence
  • Add some tinkling bells
  • Plant two or three flowering plants like violas
  • Edge the plants with shells
  • Add a small dish of water with moss around it if possible
  • If your child has fairy dolls, a little house can be made out of a childís shoe box and play possibilities will be endless.


Bulb time again

It is autumn in the southern hemisphere and an ideal time to plant some bulbs. While tulips and daffodils give spectacular displays they need more preparation than charming little grape hyacinths. Another bonus of grape hyacinths is that they multiply quickly and once planted donít have to be lifted like tulips. They will continue blooming year after year. They donít like real extremes of wetness or dryness, but they donít mind shade and will come up in the lawn if you plant them there. When summer comes you can mow them off and theyíll appear again in autumn. Children love their bright blue colour and the tiny flowers that cluster on each stem. They will make a wonderful addition to a fairy garden. Buy a handful and help your child to plant them close together or plant in a pot. The leaves will appear very quickly, but the flowers wonít come till mid spring.



Copyright 2008



The garden shed
Dealing with weeds
Making a rockery or play garden
Wood gathering
Music in the garden
Kids love to be in the garden
Fairy gardens
Bulb time again