Today’s blog is dedicated to my little Mum (Pearl) who died a few days ago at the age of 89. It also celebrates my Dad (Gordon) who passed away 18 years ago. Without the two of them (pictured together here) I would never have unearthed my passion for gardening.
Neither Mum nor Dad were hugely knowledgeable gardeners. But they worked like stink to keep it looking good and to make it productive on the vegetable front. While Dad managed the veg growing at our home high on the Berkshire Downs at Brightwalton, Mum then transformed it into the most sumptuous Sunday lunches.
Gardeners usually get the bug from one or other parent, both if you are lucky like me. Once it bites, you are undoubtedly done for and many hours of your life will be lost to a cause that will bring you both joy and grief. (Gardeners do suffer a lot when their much loved plants fail or are destroyed by weather, slugs or insects).Yet not one of us would swap it for any other pastime.
Unique gardening benefits for kids
Gardening gives massively more than it takes and that’s why I believe Mums and Dads everywhere have a duty to pass it on to the next generation. Hand on your love of horticulture and you are giving those you love something very special because with it comes some unique benefits.
There’s the obvious ones like fresh organic fruit and vegetables that haven’t been sprayed with ‘stuff’ on behalf of Sainsbury, Tesco or Waitrose. Eat your peas, beans or tomatoes straight out of the garden and you won’t revert to buying it in the High Street.
Your kids will also one day thank you for years of exercise; steady stuff that makes your heart pump at just the right level and flexes your back and joints more gently and naturally than any gym. Fresh air rather that the conditioned variety.
Kid’s gardening project
I can go no further without putting my hand up to the fact that I haven’t thus far passed on much gardening passion to my two daughters. But I do have some granddaughters who are showing promising signs. On a visit last year, Jan and I set an all-girl team of three to work on creating a rock garden within an old cow trough. They did a brilliant job with a seaside theme that includes pebbles with holes through them and bits of driftwood.
There are a few good online resources around to help you, including the rather wonderful The Kids Garden. It’s packed with ideas on everything from learning about soil to making a wormery. The site includes strong emphasis on safety and provides loads of opportunities for learning about the natural world.
But don’t spend too much time with them in front of a screen because the real value of gardening is in its hands-on outdoor opportunities. There are loads of seeds that are ideal for children to plant — try radishes for a rapid turnaround; beans of all varieties are big to handle and easy to plant; sunflowers are huge fun; and marigolds are pretty and simple to grow.
Where food really comes from
There is little to beat the fascination a child can get from tracking the path of a solitary seed potato through to the moment when an abundant root is harvested. Take that experience on to their evening meal and you have a much better appreciation of where food really comes from (ie not Sainsbury, Tesco and Waitrose!).
But of all the benefits a child will get from gardening, nothing beats the inner peace that comes from just being there. I sometimes take myself up to the top of the Flintstones garden as light falls in the evening and just sit and absorb it all – the sights, the smells and the sounds. Thanks Mum and Dad.