Design a children’s allotment
A child’s allotment is in essence very similar to an adult’s one, but just on a smaller scale. Children are fascinated by the process of how things grow and are even more excited by being able to taste what they have harvested – which is why allotment gardening is perfect for curious minds and mouths.
Children cannot rent a traditional allotment in their own right, as allotments require tenancy agreements, but there is nothing to stop parents or grandparents from sectioning off a part of their plot and turning the space into a children’s allotment. If you are a school or playgroup, then creating a teaching allotment will not only enliven any playground but it will help children develop skills outside the class room.
Size does matter
It might sounds obvious to say, but children are physically smaller than adults and so will not be able to cope with the size and scale of adult plots, equipment and in some cases, the seeds. Raised beds offer an ideal growing environment for children as their space is clearly defined, making it easier for them to weed and water their plants.
As children have little fingers, they can sometimes find it difficult to handle tiny seeds, preferring instead larger seeds or well established small plants. Below is a list of seeds and sets which are ideal for mini-hands:-
- Broad beans
- Onion sets
- Garlic bulbs
For scent, children will enjoy growing herbs like mint, lemon balm, basil and lavender, while Swiss chard is colourful, lettuce is fast growing (cut and come again variety) and flowers like sweet peas and nasturtiums, offer perfume and vibrancy.
It is worth investing in a set of gardening tools designed for children, along with some gloves.
Note: Many seeds and bulbs are poisonous to eat, so please make sure children do not eat anything unsupervised and that they always wash their hands after gardening. Always seek medical advice if anything is ingested by accident. Tetanus injections are advisable for all gardeners, especially as rusty objects, broken glass and other debris are often found in the ground.
Identifying butterflies, going on bug hunts and listening to bird songs are all things which can capture a child’s imagination while helping out on the plot. To encourage their thinking and love of nature it’s important to include plants that support wildlife. Below is a list of plants which could be considered on the children’s patch alongside the traditional vegetables:-
- French lavender
- Corn poppies
No children’s allotment can be complete without a scarecrow to ward off the birds from eating the crops. It is fairly easy to make a scarecrow and all you need are 3 bamboo canes (about a 2m in length, 1m in length and 30cm in length), a set of old clothes including a pair of tights and a hat, a large bag of straw and some string, plus some permanent markers or paint, for the face.
Start by tying the 1m cane onto the 2m cane to make a cross shape; this will be the scarecrow’s body and arms. Next take the 30cm cane and tie this onto the 2m cane about half way down, to make the scarecrow’s hips.
To make the scarecrow’s head, fill one of the tight's leg with straw, firmly packing it down until you have a head shape. Tie off the end and don’t forget to cut off the other leg. Take your permanent markers or paint and draw on a face. Once completed, tie this tightly onto the top of the 2m cane, and place a hat into its head.
Next, dress your scarecrow by placing a shirt, jumper or blouse onto the body of the frame, followed by a pair of trousers over the hips. Tie off the ends of the clothing and stuff with straw, remembering to secure the trouser waist and shirt waist with string onto the frame – now your scarecrow is ready and can be stuck into the ground.
Another idea for scaring off the birds is to use old CDs or DVDs tied onto bits of string and left to dangle from the trees or bean canes on the allotment. The shiny surface and reflected light will deter the birds from eating the crops.
On the whole children love getting their hands dirty, so asking them to help build a compost pile is a great way of keeping them entertained. Compost needs a mixture of nitrogen and carbon to make it work – green waste is high in nitrogen while brown waste contains carbon.
- Green waste includes grass clippings, weeds and dead plants (not diseased ones, these should be burnt or placed into the general waste bins). Tea bags and coffee grains can also be added in moderation.
- Brown waste includes dead leaves, shredded paper (not shiny magazines) and hedge cuttings. You can also add cotton or wool fabrics as they are natural materials.
It is best to avoid the following – cooked food scraps including any meat, woody plant material, synthetic materials, oil and dairy products (excluding egg shells which can be composted).
An adult will be needed to turn the compost pile every couple of months.
click on the link above for some allotment related games