It’s all happening in the gardening world, with May & June being the ideal time to take first steps in the garden. The Duchess of Cambridge unveiled her co-designed garden at the RHS Chelsea flower show entitled Back to Nature. It was aimed at children and the community and includes a paddling stream and campfire, the epitome of my ideal family garden!
This week a charity close to our hearts due to Caroline’s cancer, Children with Cancer UK, revealed their very first show garden at BBC Gardeners World Live entitled Strength of Humanity, featuring a representation of the bell cancer children ring to celebrate the end of treatment. I had tickets but was unable to attend so Wild Grandma took this picture for me. She also saw Monty Don but that’s another story!
Gardening encouragement abounds at this time of year, with National Gardening Week, National Gardening Day and even Children’s Gardening Week.
Evidently we’re being urged to try family gardening from all quarters! Read on to learn how to set up a gardening club for your kids and their friends.
It doesn’t have to be actual gardening in the first instance. Even if yours is only tiny, doing anything in the garden encourages children to enjoy the outdoors and to interact with nature. Start with al fresco eating or a summer water slide – they’ll love you for either!
I’ve included 25 garden-fun suggestions in an old post which will undoubtedly inspire your kids to get outdoors and hopefully to start growing things too. Have a read: go wild in the garden – 25 ways to connect with nature in your garden.
Gardening with Children
If you’re keen for your children to learn hands-on gardening (even if you don’t have much experience, or gardening space, yourself), a great way is to organise a club. You can learn alongside the children and they’ll never know!
We have just bought a house with a large garden and a vegetable patch at the back where we’re planning to grow all sorts over the years. This first year will involve lots of trial and error, as Caroline and I learn how to grow fruit and veg together.
Caroline loves gardening and has enjoyed lots of mini projects at our previous houses (where we couldn’t do much except container gardening). A favourite project was turning her old wellies into a herb planter and another was creating a mini wildflower meadow in a wheelbarrow – we’ll be trying both of these again with the club this year.
Does a gardening club sound contrived? I guess it can be as informal or as organised as you (or your children) choose it to be.
Kids Gardening Club
This is the seventh week of Caroline’s gardening and nature club. She called the club The Blackbirds. Three or four of her friends come round once a week after school to do ‘stuff’ in the garden. It was an experiment at first but they love it and it’s been surprisingly easy to arrange and facilitate.
I know it’s going well as one of the girls asked if we could set it up at their school and another wants to meet more then once a week!
Here’s a list of what they’ve enjoyed so far: –
- Planting carrot seeds
- Picking rhubarb
- Making a bee hotel
- Identifying plants and weeds
- Discovering a broken birds egg and looking at bees
- Learning about weeds
- Scattering bee bombs!
- Planting a hazel for coppicing
- Feeding birds
- Watering plants
- Willow-stick growing experiment
- Pond digging
- Planting potatoes
- Planting strawberries
- Making fat feeders for the birds
- Planting spaghetti squash
- Rooting basil cuttings in water
- Making compost
- Removing sawfly larvae from gooseberry bushes (futile, but they weren’t to be stopped. The kids that is, as well as the saw flies!)
- Helping dig the pond
- Digging in manure
Not bad for seven 45 minute sessions! They always end with half an hour playing in the garden and we try to produce something they can all take home.
You can find more detail about each session here.
How to Start a Kids Gardening Club
You don’t really have to do anything except arrange to have some of your kids’ friends around to help in the garden!
When we moved in to our new house Caroline was inspired to organise Blackbirds after I mentioned that I’d set up a nature club, The Horsehoe Club, on our street when I was 9 or 10. She’s done it quite differently to me.
Back in the day I sent off for free notebooks from the Nature Conservancy Council (now defunct), RSPB and the Milk Marketing Board (I think?) and we donated our 10p subs towards a nature charity!!
Caroline has created five levels of gardening and nature ‘awards’ with badges on completion, she takes a register and each member of the club has created a profile of their nature likes and dislikes . They all have their own club name too, each a different garden bird. I wonder what Caroline’s vocation for later in life will be…?!
They meet at our house where she and I have arranged what we’ll do each evening and I facilitate the activities with a drink or snack and lots of hands on digging and dirt.
Secret Seven Style
Clubs were a big thing for children in the past, before screens; fun and safe ways to get neighbourhood friends together after school. There were card swapping clubs, football clubs, adventure game clubs, bird watching, nature, you name it.
Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven may be the inspiration although I didn’t get into these books as a child. (Apparently in reading terms they’re a precurser to the Famous Five, but I read Famous Five first which is presumably why Secret Seven didn’t captivate me as much.)
I definitely took pointers from the Secret Seven, though.
Look out for future posts on Caroline’s Blackbirds gardening club for ideas and inspiration on starting a kids gardening club of your own but in the meantime here are some excellent resources to look at.
Gardening Club Resources
Kids of the Wild
Look out for further gardening posts here at Kids of the Wild and read our regular updates on the Blackbirds’ activities for inspiration.
Books & computers
There’s a wealth of material available at the library, online and on TV to help find child-friendly gardening ideas.
Here’s a little bit about Kids of the Wild as posted on Thompson and Morgan’s website
Green Fingered George – the fun and enthusiastic 13-year old self-proclaimed gardening geek regularly appears on Blue Peter and is a child ambassador for the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). George wrote a post for me here at Kids of the Wild about his love of gardening, including lots of ideas for kids. Have a read at growing up and gardening wild and read his blog at Green Fingered George.
Monty Don & the BBC crew at Gardeners World – gentle BBC2 seasonal gardening inspiration for adults and children alike. Watch the programme and find Monty on Facebook.
BBC Springwatch’s Gardenwatch Project
This year Springwatch has created a citizen science project in conjunction with The British Trust for Ornithology and the OU to determine the extent of wildlife in the millions of gardens around the country. Take part in four ‘Missions’ with your kids by signing up on the Springwatch website.
Gardening & Wildlife Charities
Most nature and gardening charities have useful online resources. If not aimed directly at children they can easily be adapted for all ages. Here’s a few links to get you started: –
Wild About Gardens – The Wildlife Trusts and the RHS have teamed up to encourage more of us into wildlife gardening. Find out more and pledge your garden to wildlife on their website. You can also pledge a pond for wildlife in their #WildAboutPonds campaign – look out for posts on our pond creation coming soon.
Schools Gardening – The RHS have a school gardening section full of excellent ideas and information for parents as well as teachers and educators.
Garden Organic – (the old Henry Doubleday Research Association of which I was a member for years) have an excellent educational gardening section on their website.
The Wildlife Trusts – with thousands of nature reserves across the country, Wildlife Trusts also has an excellent wildlife gardening section on their website with lots of simple, accessible resources. Every year during June they run #30DaysWild encouraging daily acts of random wildness which can include wild things in the garden too.
RSPB – not just a bird charity, the RSPB also have a section for wildlife gardening on their website too.
Please let me know any other gardening resources for kids you know of.
Get the Gear
Here’s a few things to help you get your kids gardening club started. Just click on the images for links to Amazon.
Metal Children’s Garden Tool Kit
Metal Kids Gardening Tool Kit
First Gardening Book – RHS
Kids Fun Seeds Pack – Mr Fothergills