Brian Kidd has tips for getting children enthralled in the garden this weekend

Many (little) hands make light work.
Many (little) hands make light work.
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At the allotment I have just spent more than an hour squeezing caterpillars, a horrid job but I was wearing latex gloves.

My lovely Duncan cabbages and Brussesls sprouts were being attacked, but I was at the allotment at just the right time.

Another plot-holder was horrified and asked if there was a spray which could be used. I told her any spray containing pyrethrum would do the trick.

Now for something far more interesting...

I know the children have gone back to school but this weekend they can help you in the garden and plant some seeds of hardy annual flowers. Remember, children like to see things happen quickly, but this will give them something to look forward to and it hardly costs anything.

Hardy annuals are plants sown now which will flower next summer. They will give a carpet of colour for many weeks and are often called cottage garden plants. Wonderful for bees.

Dig over a border to the depth of a garden fork and then rake the area over to a depth of four inches. Use the rake until the soil is fine and then apply a dressing of fish, blood and bone fertiliser using 2oz per square yard. Now rake again to ensure the fertiliser is incorporated into the top four inches of soil.

Now comes the fun bit. Give the children a broom handle and ask them to make jigsaw puzzle shapes by pushing the tip of the broom handle into the border. Encourage them to imagine how the colours will look by showing them pictures. Ask them to look at the heights of the blooms to see what should go towards the back and what should go to the front. This will cause arguments.

If you don’t have the amazing experience of grandchildren go to the next step.

Some lovely hardy annuals which can be sown right now for flowers next summer are larkspur; pot marigolds which have the botanical name of calendula which means they flower every month; godetia; love-in-a-mist, cornflowers... there are lots of others. A seed catalogue will help you find them.

So, the soil has been raked, the fertiliser raked in and areas defined by that broom handle. Now sow the seeds.

Put little pinches of seeds about four inches apart into the defined areas and then water the border.

In three weeks there will be a mass of growth including weeds.

If some of the flower seeds don’t germinate, thin out some of those which are successful to fill any gaps.

Wait for another fortnight and then remove the weeds. You will see the weeds are all the same over the whole bed but the flowers have their own type of foliage.

This is where the children help. Just show them the weeds and set them to work. It won’t be long before they will want an ice cream!


If you have forget-me-not seedlings invading the garden, dig them out and put them together in a border planted five inches apart.

As you have now saved some money, treat yourself to some pink tulips and plant these between the forget-­me-­nots and you’ll have a tasteful display next spring.