Spring is the perfect time of year to get your garden in shape. The warmer weather means that the risk of frost is lower and the soil should be easier to dig and turn. Whether you have a sprawling allotment or a small greenhouse, there is plenty of prep you can get the grandkids involved with.
Perhaps you first started gardening with a parent or grandparent and are keen to ensure that green fingers continue to the next generation. Passing on a skill is a wonderful gift that will stay with them forever.
Gardening with your grandchildren might have the obvious benefits of tidying up your plot and keeping the kids occupied, but you are helping them to develop life skills, too.
According to The Telegraph, a Texas A&M University survey of children under 12 actively involved in gardening projects in school, community or home settings, found benefits to children’s self-esteem and reduction in stress levels.
Closer to home, Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) research showed similar findings and also suggests children perform better at school if they’re involved with gardening, and many will develop a greater interest in healthy eating if they get to grow their own veg.
Here are a few tips to get you gardening:
1. Clean up and prep
The winter has been long and cold and you are forgiven for not tending to your garden as you should have been! However, it’s time to put things right. Make a start by clearing your garden of dead leaves, fallen branches and other detritus that has been driven in by the wind and rain. If you have grass, and it’s not too wet, get the mower out. The smell of freshly cut grass is a sure sign that summer is coming.
Check the quality of your soil and add new organic matter if you are planning to plant. Compost, manure or grass clippings can be turned in to the soil when it is wet enough to form a clump in your hand, but falls apart when dropped.
Getting the grandkids involved: Kids love getting dirty. Let them dig in your organic matter, turning the soil 8 – 12 inches with a small gardening fork or trowel.
2. Plant summer blooming bulbs
Early spring is the best time to plant summer bulbs. Flowers such as lilies, gladiolus and ranunculus can be planted in borders or in tubs to create a colourful summer display.
There are a few general rules for planting bulbs:
- Always plant bulbs upright
- If planting in tubs, make sure that the bulb variety is positioned to get the right amount of sunlight
- Check how deep you need to plant your bulbs. We found a handy guide here.
Getting the grandkids involved: Let them place the bulbs in the holes you have dug and gently cover them over. They can be responsible for watering them every time they visit.
Your plants, bulbs and vegetation shouldn’t live in a dirty greenhouse. Sweep out thoroughly with a stiff yard brush and clean benches with a hot solution of garden disinfectant such as Jeyes Fluid. Make sure you wash and disinfect the inside of the glass too – this will ensure that any pests and diseases have been tackled. You should always wash pots and seed trays to help prevent diseases such as ‘damping off’ infecting young plants. Ventilate your greenhouse so it dries thoroughly.
Getting the grandkids involved: Ask your little helpers to collect your smaller pots. They can also be given the task of drying the interior glass with a chamois or microfibre cloth. Just make sure you have some treats on hand for this manual labour.
3. Store water ready for summer droughts
Perhaps the word drought is a little optimistic, especially in the UK, but collecting rainwater has several benefits. Firstly, most plants prefer it. It’s better for the environment and if your water is billed on a meter, it’s better for your bank balance too.
Getting the grandkids involved: You can tell them about the importance of water conservation. Let them water the garden with water you have collected and show them how the plants grow big and strong!
Now, can you remember where you put the shed keys?!