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Gardening with Dad

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Celebrate Youth Day and Father's Day with some fun garden activities with your child - it’s educational, healthy and good for the garden

With Youth Day celebrated on June 16 and Father’s Day on June 17, this weekend highlights the importance of spending quality time with those you love. What better place than to spend quality time with your loved ones in a garden?

Not only does gardening have benefits in getting people active, it also provides a way of developing your creative side. By getting a child involved with the garden, you not only pass on important life skills, you also provide a tactile way to teach children about nature.

Beyond the physical lessons are those of moral instruction that growing a garden provides free of charge – that of taking on responsibility, working towards a goal and reaping the rewards of one’s hard work.

Fun garden projects

Spend quality time with your youngsters by doing some fun gardening projects together. Here are 16 ideas:

1 Make a scarecrow

Make a scarecrow for the veggie patch. Use dowels, hessian or a maize meal sack, pillow stuffing and some old clothing. Draw on a face with a felt-tipped pen. Use wool or straw for hair and add a hat.

Make a scarecrow for the vegetable garden. Picture: Lukas Otto

2 Set up a bird table

Create a feast table with wild bird seed, fruit and suet balls or blocks, available from your local DIY or pet store. Attach an old wooden towel rail to a garden or house wall. Knock nails along the top and use as spikes for fruit.

3 Make a pine cone bird treat

You’ll need a pine cone, seed for wild birds, some peanut butter and string. Spread peanut butter over the pine cone and roll in bird seed, then hang in a tree.

4 Plant catnip

If you have a cat, consider planting some catnip. It triggers a neurological response in some cats. Catnip grows well in sun or partial shade. You can use the dried leaves inside a sock or catnip toy when playing with the cat.

5 Make an insect hotel

Cut the bottoms off margarine tubs or use offcuts of PVC piping and fill with dowel sticks, twigs, egg boxes and straw. Place in a quiet area and wait for the beneficial bugs to make it their home.

Use egg boxes, rolled newspaper and logs to make your insect hotel. Picture: RHS/Jon Enoch

6 Put up a bird house

Sisal logs or nesting boxes can encourage birds to breed in your garden. You can make your own nesting box or place a sisal log in a tall tree before spring nesting. A sisal log will attract crested barbets, woodpeckers or starlings.

7 Put up a bat box

Bats help to keep down the number of mosquitoes and other unwanted insects. Their presence indicates a healthy eco-system. Bat boxes can be placed in a tree or on a pole, 2m above ground.

8 Paint pots and plant annuals

Paint old margarine tubs, top with potting soil and plant winter annuals like pansies or primulas.

9 Make a topiary

Buy a topiary frame from a nursery. Use ivy or buxus to create your topiary. Animal shapes like rabbits and ducks are popular with the children.

10 Make a labyrinth

If you have space, consider a labyrinth – a spiral pathway that leads from the entrance to the centre and back out the same way. You can use colourful pebbles and stones to lay the pathway.

Labyrinths provide hours of fun in a garden for 
children. Picture: Lifestyle Home Garden

11 Set up a sandpit

A garden for children should always include a sandpit for tactile play. Build one using reclaimed pallet timber and add treated sandpit sand.

12 Make compost

Use a 20l paint drum, with a lid. Add leaves, raw veggie peelings, egg shells and even pet bedding (from a hamster cage). Add soil and a little water. Replace the lid and cover with canvas. Add materials and a little water and mix periodically over the next three to four months – you’ll be rewarded with a rich compost.

13 Sow seeds for spring

Alyssum seeds are very fine, so mix the seed pack with a little maize meal and sprinkle over a prepared bed. Rake over and water well during germination.

Gardens for children should offer adventure. Picture: Supplied

14 Seed name

Sow seed in a flat tray in the shape of your child’s initials or full name. Within seven to 10 days, the seeds will germinate and spell out the letter or name.

15 Plant veggies

In the Western Cape, you can sow cabbages, carrots, lettuce, onions, peas and turnips now. Plant tomatoes next month.

16 Plan to plant a tree

Decide on a spot in the garden and do research on the right tree for your space. Make a note to plant a tree with your child on Spring Day in September.

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