Keeping it in the family: The joy of gardening, whatever your age
PUBLISHED: 13:55 16 April 2019 | UPDATED: 14:32 16 April 2019
Columnist Debbie McMorran has started introducing her young daughter to the joys of gardening, a pleasure that local schools have also been embracing…
For many (all) people, having a child is totally life changing. For those who have regular hobbies, it can be disruptive to say the least - for those who have a garden which requires constant attention, it can seem impossible.
Weekend hours previously spent pottering around the garden or the allotment are soon a thing of the past, as the newborn of course takes precedence! When my daughter was very small I found that I could still get a fair amount of time in the garden as she was an excellent sleeper, allowing me to garden first thing in the morning before she woke, and during naptimes throughout the day for an hour here of there; leaving the bedroom window open which backed onto our garden, I could hear when she woke and immediately return to attend to her.
As she got older and didn't sleep as much, the garden became more and more neglected. It didn't suddenly become some overgrown mess, as most gardens will look after themselves more or less - just with a few more weeds, and as my husband still managed to make sure the lawn was regularly mown, it still looked fairly respectable. But it wasn't getting the love and attention that it had previously got - and of course I therefore wasn't getting the enjoyment out of it.
Fast forward 12 months, and it's a totally different story. My baby is now a toddler - she absolutely loves being out in the garden, and the problem now is trying to get her back indoors, rather than trying to get her outside.
Back in October we attempted gardening together for the first time. My mum and I took her out in the garden with us whilst we planted the spring bulbs – it was the first time that the three of us had gardened together, but by no means the first time for my mum and I.
It was really fun seeing how the dynamic changed. My mum immediately focused her attention on teaching my daughter how to plant the bulbs (presumably she knew that this was something I should know how to do by now...), and the relationship between them was incredibly moving.
Watching my daughter and her granny working together in the garden has strengthened my resolve to ensure that we spend plenty of time gardening, and that she grows up with a good knowledge of where her food comes from – with as many of the vegetables as possible being grown right here at home.
We are currently enjoying purple sprouting broccoli on a regular basis, and she absolutely loves walking down the garden to the vegetable patch with her little basket to help pick it.
I hope that when she gets older and goes to school, that there will be a firm place on the curriculum for continuing education about gardening and cultivating our own food.
I have recently been speaking to the Hertfordshire Gardens Trust, a local group who research and protect local landscapes for future generations to enjoy.
They are also actively involved in encouraging gardening within local schools.
Many schools are involved with the national RHS schools programme (https://schoolgardening.rhs.org.uk/school-gardening-awards), which helps them set up their own gardens.
Following on from its successful Mrs Wheelbarrow Workshops, which sent a team of volunteer gardening enthusiasts into Hertfordshire schools to work with the children on Key Sage 2 science, the Hertfordshire Gardens Trust has now set up a biennial Mrs Wheelbarrrow Awards fund to which schools can apply for support to set up a garden.
Alongside this the Trust offers guidance to the schools to help them to produce a sensible working plan and deliver valuable gardening projects for their school community.
Last year two schools gained Mrs Wheelbarrow Awards towards the costs of developing or building something new to encourage gardening activity, with both projects completed in time for the children to enjoy them during the growing year.
In conjunction with Abbots Langley Gardening Society, the Trust worked with Tanners Wood primary school and their enthusiastic early years teacher. Hands-on support from the local gardening society was a real help. The members worked together, with some supportive parents, to reclaim an area which was full of weeds and create raised beds, build a compost bin, and harvest lots of radishes and even a crop of beans. The school has plans to extend this and plant fruit bushes and apple trees. Most importantly, the children are really enjoying it. They received a grant towards the cost of the beds, tools, weed suppressing fabric and bark mulch.
The Trust also worked with the PTA at St John's Digswell to help re-establish and revitalise the garden in the grounds, which are extensive and include a wildlife area. The Trust offered advice and helped set realisable goals, and the award was well spent on a small greenhouse, benches and gardening equipment which means more children are now able to join in and help with the garden.
Interested schools can contact the Trust at firstname.lastname@example.org
Things to do in the garden this month:
• If you have plants which are half-hardy, you can start to harden them off by bringing them outside during the day, and putting them back under cover at night when it's colder. You could do this for around a week prior to planting them out
• If you are planning to grow anything which needs canes – such as sweetpeas, or vegetables such as beans, you can prepare the area and get the canes into the ground ready for the plants
• If you have clumps of daffodils which you want to divide up and plant into other areas, now is the time to do it
• You will have likely mown the lawn a couple of times already by now, but if your lawn is now looking smarter, you might want to edge it, and around any flower borders. The difference it can make is astounding!