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Gardening with the Kids in the Spring

Written by Steven Howard from N/D Garden Design

Steven is an eco-friendly garden designer and consultant based in Ashbourne, Derbyshire


Hello and welcome to what will hopefully be the first of many articles aimed at helping you find new and fun ways to enjoy gardening with your little ones.


I run a Garden Consultation, Design and Maintenance company based in Ashbourne but, primarily, I am Dad to our two girls - Nelly aged three and Dorothy aged two. Gardening and horticulture has been my career for the past decade and, now that I am a parent, I am keen to pass on my green fingers and love of nature to my children.


March is a tricky month in the garden. The weather can flit from ice and snow to warm spring sunshine in what seems like an instant. It feels as if the garden - and the gardeners - are a coiled spring or racehorses under starters orders just itching to get going. While there are plenty of fun things to get up to in the garden in March, it's best to leave most of the seed sowing until the temperature rises and the soil warms.


Although tomatoes, chillies and peppers can be sown indoors now, these can be tricky for the very littlest hands as the seeds are only small. One job in the garden which our girls love helping with is planting potatoes. The seed potatoes are easy to handle and burying them in the compost (around 10-12cm deep) is great, messy fun. I find the best way is to grow them in large pots or containers and, because they are relatively quick to grow, the kids really get the feel for growing their own. 


Another activity which we enjoy in the early spring is building our bug hotels. I am a self-confessed messy gardener and maintain the fact that my garden is supposed to be untidy in order to help wildlife! I have bent and crooked apple trees which I have rescued from a skip, and I rarely cut anything back or clear leaves away in the autumn. As a result, we have fantastic insect biodiversity and bird life in the garden. When spring rolls around and hibernating insects start to emerge from the winter sleep, I start to clear away all the debris from the garden. Our bug hotels are tee-pee style using three canes tied together with all the garden leaves, stems and twigs stacked inside. They act as beautiful biodegradable garden structures and we enjoy watching the birds and other creatures make use of them throughout the year.


As the weather warms and the soil starts to stir, certain flowers can be sown directly into the garden. Calendula are one of my favourite flowers and I have sown them in every garden I have ever managed from tiny urban window boxes to 20-acre country estates. They are very easy to grow and have fantastic orange and yellow flowers which your kids and bees will adore!

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