On the Wilde side

Date
Published in
icStaines website (UK)
Written by
Hannah Stephenson

Pop star-turned expert gardener Kim Wilde is never happier than when she's in her garden with her children, Harry and Rose.

Working on a half-acre plot in Hertfordshire could be seen as a chore if you have kids around your feet all the time, she admits, but Wilde decided to do something about it - and encourage her kids to enjoy gardening too. With this in mind she has written Gardening For Children, which is packed with practical ways in which you can get your children interested in the garden.

"I'm out there a lot of the time and they like to be around me. If they see that Mummy's got her hands in the dirt they always want to do that too," Wilde says. "If you are in the garden doing things, just give them an area, some pots, some compost and some little children's tools and they will have a bit of fun and feel like they are participating."

Suitable plants to start them off on include sunflowers, which have large seeds perfect for little hands, alpine strawberries, which are easy to grow and produce small, child-size fruits, Tumbler cherry tomatoes in containers and radishes, which are ready to harvest quickly. Making tile mosaics is another activity they'll love, she says. The mosaics can be used as part of your paving area, with simple motifs.

"If you are creating an area for children, it's lovely to have their artwork on the ground. If they feel they've contributed and been creative in an area, they are much more likely to use it and feel good about being there," Wilde says.

Other projects featured in the book include making wormeries out of old glass fishbowls or similar containers, to enable the children to see the value of worms and how they improve the soil, and making scarecrows out of old dressing-up outfits. There are plenty of brightly coloured seed packets aimed at children available from garden centres, as well as a wealth of small tools and miniature gloves for their little hands. For families with a small garden, or none at all, window boxes and other activities are suggested, indoor projects for rainy days are featured as well as a plant directory identifying good plants for children, chosen for their speedy growth, smell, cost-effectiveness, ease of handling and other child-friendly characteristics.

Wilde, who will be creating her first show garden for the Chelsea Flower Show this year in the courtyard garden section, adds that simple projects to attract wildlife into the garden can also be taken on. "Mixing up little balls of fat with fruit and seeds is a great idea for encouraging kids. It's like making a cake. Kids love putting all the ingredients in a big bowl," she says. "Put some shredded suet in a saucepan, melt it a little bit and add things like pumpkin seeds or even general bird seed mix. When the suet starts to go cold, roll it into little balls to hang in trees."

She adds: "Often children are distracted with homework or DVDs or their friends. The chance of interacting with them or having any quality time with them has been dramatically compromised over the last decade. It's important to reclaim that precious time together."

Gardening For Children, by Kim Wilde, is published by Collins, 14.99.