Little green fingers

The other day I happened to catch a glimpse of Alan Titchmarsh talking to James May about his colourful Plasticine garden at the Chelsea Flower Show. 'Gardening is great for kids,' Alan said. 'It gets them off the computer and out into the fresh air.'

While I'm not very keen on the Plasticine plant idea (although the garden did look amazing), I couldn't agree more. Kids love gardening, and even if you don't have a grass plot of your own, sowing seeds or bulbs in a pot, watering them and watching them grow into something beautiful or edible is cheap and hugely rewarding. You don't even need good weather to do it. (If you're planning on buying some plants, BloomingDirect has a great selection, and sells some brilliant kids' gardening tools.)

One of Alan's former co-presenters, celebrity gardener Charlie Dimmock, is currently working with Disney to create Winnie The Pooh gardens in children's nurseries across the UK to encourage pre-school children to get involved with gardening. 'I'm a firm believer in the positive effects of children spending more time outdoors,' she says. Here are some of her top tips:

  • Children love gardening but they will get dirty – that's the fun bit! So make sure they're in practical clothes and footwear.
  • If you're going to go for containers, go for large ones because they're easier to maintain.
  • Simple gardens work best – why not plant your flowers in different shapes like circles, squares or triangles?
  • Regular (ideally daily) watering, weeding and checking of plants will all give the best results. How about giving your children a different maintenance role every day?
  • Plants will attract lots of wildlife including some of Pooh's favourites like honeybees and butterflies. You could keep a chart or diary of what the children see each week which they will love.
  • Do get your children to actually use and relax in the garden so they appreciate the space and all their hard work. The garden is a lovely space for storytime or even a Winnie The Pooh picnic.

written by Liz Jarvis