Grow a Pizza Garden and Other Fun Gardening Activities for Children
This week is National Children’s Gardening Week, a chance to celebrate the joy and learning that gardening can bring to the lives of families everywhere. Gardening helps us to connect with the seasons, we can learn important skills like growing our own food and gardens can also help to kindle a life-long love of nature.
The risk of a late frost has now passed and we can really get going now with planting everything out into the garden. Here are 5 fun gardening activities to do with children this summer.
Grow a Pizza Garden
If your family loves home-made pizza then this one’s a winner. A pizza garden can be grown in a raised bed or adapted for container growing. Tomatoes, basil, peppers, onions, oregano and parsley are classic pizza ingredients, but feel free to add aubergine and courgette, spinach and rocket to that list if they’re your toppings of choice. You can either grow the plants all together in one bed or planter or for extra pizza-themed fun, create a circular bed, divided into “slices” for each crop to grow in. Most of these plants prefer a warm, sunny spot, so make sure to locate your bed or containers in a sunny, sheltered position and don’t forget to water them lots. Harvest crops as they become ready and enjoy adding them to your summer pizzas (or pasta sauces). From plot to pizza, food miles never got this low!
Have a Sunflower Race
They're big, they're bright and they’re so much fun to grow. My children love sunflowers and every year we grow a row in our sunny front garden to brighten up the street. They grow so quickly and it’s great fun to watch them getting taller and taller, overtaking each family member in turn as they reach their dizzying heights. It’s a perfect time to sow them now, either in pots or direct in the ground. Slugs and snails love sunflowers too so I tend to grow them in pots and plant them out when they reach 10-15cm tall. If you do sow seeds directly outside then you can use a plastic bottle cut in half to protect the young seedlings as they emerge. Keep them well watered and provide some stakes for support as they grow. Sunflowers are also a great plant for wildlife, providing nectar for the bees and if you leave the seed heads on to ripen and dry, they will provide a tasty treat for the birds later in the year. If you have the room, you can also grow a sunflower den for the children to hide in. Mark out a square or circular shape, dig narrow trenches for the four walls (or a circular trench for a round den) and plant sunflowers all the way around. Keep plants well-watered and supported and in a few weeks, you’ll have a living den to hide in!
Mud, glorious mud, there’s nothing quite like it for making pies, stews, cakes and all manner of weird and wonderful creations. A mud kitchen is a wonderful addition to the garden for children and suitable for gardens of all shapes and sizes. You needn’t spend a penny either, it’s the perfect project for recycling odds and ends that you have lying around. Repurpose an old bench or table into a ‘worktop’ at a suitable height and then donate some old pots, pans and utensils from the kitchen. Old colanders and sieves are very useful and you can raid the recycling for old plastic tubs and bottles. Yes, it can get pretty messy, but that’s half the fun of it! Growing a range of safe-to-forage flowers in the garden such as calendula, chives, and nasturtiums will ensure a plentiful supply of petal toppings for adding the finishing touch to creations.
Create a Mini-Pond
My children love ponds and watching water creatures of all shapes and sizes is one of their favourite past-times. They’ve created plenty of accidental ponds in the past by leaving containers of water lying out and have been particularly fascinated by the arrival of mosquito larvae, which they call “wiggle sitters” due to the way they move. Whilst I don’t recommend a mosquito breeding project (and I’m now pretty ruthless about emptying containers of water left lying around) a mini-pond is great fun to build and can attract all sorts of (welcome) wildlife to the garden.
Adding oxygenating pond plants will help keep the water clean and encouraging natural predators of mosquitoes to the garden, including birds, bats, damselflies and dragonflies will help keep their population in check. Have a look at our article on wildlife gardening for details on how to build your own mini-pond along with other simple ideas for attracting more wildlife into your garden.
Plant a Fragrant Herb Garden
Grab some herbs from your local garden centre or organic nursery and create an aromatic herb garden or planter. Herbs, especially edible ones, are great fun to grow with children and provide a feast for all the senses. You can make your own multi-level herb planter by stacking some pots on top of each other and then plant them up with your favourites. Herbs such as lavender, marjoram, oregano and rosemary are also great for attracting beneficial insects and the fat, purple pom-poms of chive flowers are particularly irresistible to bees and butterflies. Most herbs love sunshine so put the planter in the sunniest spot you can find. Harvest them for use in the kitchen or let children experiment with some potion and perfume making. Herb gardens are also ideal for small spaces such as patios, balconies and sunny window-sills. For more container growing ideas, have a look at our article on growing vegetables in small spaces.
Our gardens are such a precious resource, keeping our little ones and ourselves physically and mentally healthy and well during these challenging times as well as providing a wealth of educational opportunities. I hope you have fun trying out some of these activities - happy gardening!