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Fun Gardening with an Isolated Child

Here in South Derbyshire, we are lucky to be living in the countryside where we can go for walks and keep our two metres apart without too much difficulty. But what then, for those lively youngsters, anxious to do something more outside?  

Were you to buy some seeds on the internet your children could sow them – parsley, chives, tomatoes, carrots, beetroot, spinach (my children would have said ‘not on your life‘ to the last two), or cosmos, nicotiana, zinnia, calendula (Indian Prince is a great one), stocks – the list is endless. 

‘But in what?’ you may say.  Well, the only things you need are some seeds and a box or bag of good seed compost to make it work well – I like using a compost containing John Innes No 1 – but that is just my preference. You can get it online – there are lots of suppliers. This will be your only expense as you can make pots out of newspaper wrapped around a jam jar with an overlap at the bottom to make into a base, (you can use a Yorkshire pudding tray to hold the homemade pots or a baking tray will do); you can use a kitchen spoon to shovel the soil into the pots and hey presto you have everything you need.   

Make sure the soil is well ‘tamped down’ in the pot, make a little hole with the end of a pencil,  just a few millimetres deep and drop the seed in.  Cover it up, water it gently, label it and put it on a windowsill or in a greenhouse if you have one.  When the seeds have come through and are showing their first leaf, put them outside in the sunshine for each day taking them in at night if it is going to frost hard.  

The other thing children might enjoy doing, as it has a destructive and creative element, is to pull a plant out of a container if it has been in it for over 3 years.  It could be a small pot plant or you may have to dig it out if it is a big pot – even cut some roots to get it out.  Lay  it on some newspaper in order to do the repotting, using some of the old soil and some fresh soil or potting compost.  You could well add a sprinkling of a controlled release fertiliser like Osmocote also obtainable on the internet.  

Before you do the re-potting, you may think the plant’s roots are still too big for the pot – a child will have a happy time reducing them (with your supervision) to a size which looks a more comfortable fit.  The plant will appreciate this root pruning so long as you leave about 2/3 of the root behind.   And if there are any vine weevils visible (the larvae are like plump little white maggots) go onto the internet again and get some nematodes for vine weevil.  It will come in a little packet which can live in the fridge for a week or so but otherwise can be used immediately, just watered into the pot.  And if all this is too much, just replace the top 2″ of soil (adding some feed if you have some) and then water the pot weekly.  It will look much happier and maybe your child will be intrigued.  

Griselda Kerr
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Griselda Kerr

If not in her Melbourne garden, author Griselda is probably designing, judging, writing or talking about gardening.