Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Gardening with Children

A school group striding out at RHS Hampton Court Flower Show

My topic for this week is self-explanatory – and a subject important in its significance. For if we don’t introduce children to ‘how’ to garden when they are young we will have a generation who not only don’t know where fresh food comes from, but will also be unaware of the joys of hands-in-the-earth, and the sense of achievement gained from raising plants from seed. It may not always be edible plants, for they may come to love flowers, and plants important to bees and pollination.

Learning how to pot up a plant, in Malvern's 'Discovery Zone'
OK, so it may begin with bucket and spade in the sandpit, and progress from there. Fortunate indeed are those youngsters whose schools incorporate gardening activities into the curriculum. What a pleasurable way to learn maths and science, geography and even English.

Making notes is always a good idea; these pupils at Malvern were
showing their garden design folder to a couple of visitors
Time was, not that long ago, when the then generation of teachers had missed such experiences in their childhood, and children of the gardening public knew more than those who taught them! Something of a generality, and fortunately the balance has been redressed and School Gardening is flourishing. Alive and kicking, in fact which is a godsend to parents who don’t garden (not Dobies readers of course. If you weren't a keen gardener, you wouldn't be reading this.!)

In costume as the main characters in their 'Secret Garden' plot
at RHS Tatton Park Flower Show
Organisers of Gardening Shows have come to realise the value of including educational activities in what is on offer. School Gardens designed and created by children from nursery school to secondary age and even college level. Some are weird and wonderful, many make use of recycled materials and others are based on a theme. A typical topic is to base the design on a book, which has double value for you can’t plan a garden on a story theme if you haven’t first read it!

I chat to this group in their 'shop'  at The Malvern Spring Gardening Show
Talking to the children is a delight; they are always so excited and justifiably proud of their achievements. Happy, smiling faces whilst they chat to visitors, learning the skill of communication as well as gardening. Sometimes they run a shop as well, to raise funds for more seeds. Not all schools participate in this way, but Gardening Shows are a useful out-of-classroom resource, a day out from which so much can be learned. Though somehow that is not the same as taking part, and learning to stage an exhibit. But something rubs off nevertheless.

Quite small to be learning about the significance of bees - but what a lot
of fun for this playgroup visiting RHS Tatton Park Flower Show
Additional activities are often provided: ‘discover and learn’ through hands-on topics such as searching for ladybirds in boxes of leaves, planting beans in pots, making leaf prints (you get to know which are best), or looking at bees in a demonstration hive. Families appreciate what is offered, for so often you can run out of ideas at home and having a few new ideas up your sleeve for a rainy day will not come amiss.

Plenty going on to interest pupils at RHS Hampton Court
Every year I visit many shows around the country but three in particular, selected I have to admit for their convenience of location, though they are not necessarily the nearest. Not to be missed (in date order) are the following: the Malvern Spring Gardening Show (in conjunction with the RHS), from 9th-12th May (more news on this on Ann’s Malvern Jotter which I am engaged to write for the organisers); RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show (9th-14th July) and the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show (Knutsford, Cheshire) from 25th-28th July. Each Show is totally different and has it own distinct vibes. The images in this post were all taken at 2012 events so of course are not what you will see this year.

The only 'posed' picture, but I wanted these two in their garden at RHS Tatton Park
Flower Show (not sure how they managed tulips in July, but so colourful)
Don’t forget that there’s a special offer on Dobies seeds during April – so you can present your children or grandchildren with a little gardening gift of seeds to sow over the Bank Holiday at the beginning of May. Give them a hand if they need it.

A teaching group in the permanent 'Learning Garden' at
Malvern's  Three Counties Showground
Remember to check for all your gardening requirements (all seeds, plants and other topics) on the Dobies website by clicking on the generic links. You may particularly like: vegetable seedsvegetable plants, flower seeds, flower plants, herbs, fruit and equipment. And don't forget their regular mailings and special offers online. Just keep visiting so you don't miss anything special.

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