Gardening: Let the kids GO WILDE..with Kim's fun ideas

Date
Published in
Sunday Mirror (UK)
Written by
Adrienne Wild

POP star Kim Wilde has a great new career as a gardening guru. She has worked hard on her garden in Hertfordshire and got the kids to muck in as well. Kim and her two children Harry, seven, and Rose, five, have had hours of fun. Now she's written a book called Gardening with Children to help you get your youngsters busy in the garden.

"Children love to explore and discover all the secrets of a garden themselves," said Kim, 44. "Keeping a camera handy in the kitchen has encouraged me to record precious moments."

Here she shares her ideas on how to encourage children to grow plants and enjoy being away from the television.

Grow a rainbow border

Hardy annuals that flower, set seed and die in one season are ideal for children's flowerbeds. They come in almost every colour so it makes sense to create a rainbow border.
Tip: Choose a sunny spot and dig and rake the soil so it is fine and crumbly on top. Mark the area for your rainbow. We used coloured ribbon to represent the rainbow colours - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Sow the seeds (make sure you read the instructions), and cover them with about 1/4in of soil. Water with a fine spray and keep an eye on weeds, which love these growing conditions.
How much? Suttons Seed Squad range (less than pounds 1 a packet) features wacky characters to encourage interest in gardening. Sunny Sunflower, Crazy Cornflower and Carefree Calendula are just three of the six flower characters.

Create a den

Older children love dens and places to escape from the prying eyes of adults. Living willow is a wonderful way to create a structure that will blend into the garden - and it gets bigger, so grows along with the children. The best time to plant a living willow structure is from the start of February to the end of April. It can be used to make tunnels, rustic arbours and sculptures.
Tip: Mark out the den area using small sticks of willow. Make holes about 12in deep and 8in apart, depending on whether your feature is going to be closely woven by weaving the diagonal stems, or open. Leave a gap for the doorway and plant willow rods on either side for strength then twist and tie them together to make a door arch.
How much? A 10kg bundle costs pounds 30.74 plus P&P from PH Coate & Son (01823 490249).

Grow your own veg

When I had children, I knew that I wanted to grow vegetables so that they would be able to see them grow from seed and eat them fresh from the garden, says Kim. It's a good idea to choose relatively fast-growing vegetables like courgettes, tomatoes and pumpkins. For quick results grow strawberry plants in pots. We made a tower by stacking three pots and grew different varieties so we had fruit from late May until the frosts.
Tip: Line the largest pot with crocks and fill with multi- purpose compost. Repeat with the others and give them all a good watering. Stack on top of one another then plant up in a sunny, sheltered spot, making sure the crown - where the roots join the leaves - is at soil level. Water regularly.
How much? A collection of 36 plants costs pounds 38.10 from www.kenmuir.co.uk

Make a safe water garden

Where children are concerned, water in the garden can be a real worry, especially as it only takes a few inches of water to pose a real threat of drowning. We made our wildlife- friendly aquatic garden in a tub and put it in a sunny spot where we could keep a constant eye on it. We made a ramp for wildlife and rescued a few tadpoles from a friend's pond to get things started.
Tip: Any watertight container can be used - galvanised containers are safe to use for tadpoles or fish if you paint the inside of the container with fish-friendly pond sealer available from specialist aquatic shops to seal in the zinc.
How much? Self-contained pond kits and water features cost from pounds 59.95.

Plant bulbs in the lawn

I have a very strong memory of finding a bulb in our garden when I was seven years old, planting it in a little red bucket and taking it to Brownies, remembers Kim. It was obvious I was going to share the joyous experience of growing these plants with my children. We decided to plant the bulbs in areas of the lawn for a natural look.
Tip: Take a handful of bulbs and gently throw them across the grass then plant them where they land. Dig the turf and make a hole so that each bulb is covered with roughly three times the depth of soil as the size of the bulb. Spring-flowering bulbs are planted in the autumn. After the bulbs have finished flowering, leave the foliage for about six weeks before cutting it down.
How much? Bulbs cost just a few pence each. Check out www.flowerbulbs.co.uk for ideas.

Make topiary shapes

When gardening with children keep them interested and busy. A good idea is to make topiary shape features like an ivy heart that can be easily created by bending a wire coat hanger into shape. This project takes less than half-an-hour and is suitable for children from four years upwards.
Tip: Plant the ivy at the base of the wire frame, ensuring both are firmly in place, and wrap leaves around the wire. As it grows, continue to feed the ivy around the wire shape, trimming as necessary. Water regularly and give it a fortnightly liquid feed.
How much? There are all kinds of ready-made wire frames available from garden centres including ducks, rabbits and cats priced from pounds 3.

Decorating pots

A great wet weather activity. The children can customise their own containers to plant in.
Tip: Use paint, shells and mosaic to create designs and stick on to a dry pot surface using PVA glue. If the pots are for outside, apply several coats of exterior varnish.
How much? The Floral Bumper Card Kit costs pounds 19.95 from Lakeland Limited (www.lakeland limited.co.uk).

Get creative in the garden

Children love creative play, whether it's cooking, painting, role- playing or gardening, and the trick is to be prepared. Invest in some children's gardening tools, special children's seed packets and a funky pair of wellies. In fact, use anything that makes them feel encouraged and supported.
Tip: When you have children, leaving tools lying around the garden can potentially be extremely dangerous, so always make a habit of putting them away straight after using them, and of course, out of reach of inquisitive hands.
Use some brightly-coloured tape to wrap around the handles of trowels and hand forks as these often have a habit of disappearing!
How much? A Garden Tidy suitable for children as young as three, with hand tools and watering can, is available from Early Learning stores price pounds 10.

Gardening with Children by Kim Wilde (pounds 14.99, Collins) is available from all good bookshops.
Kim Wilde has a second career as a gardening guru.