Ways to keep kids busy in the garden

Now is the time to get to grips with your strawberry bed.

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The children are on summer holidays and I remember Pam and I trying to think of things to do to keep our little boy amused.

A good idea is to take them blackberrying, something very few people do these days. There’s nothing like blackberry and apple pie.

Now, we have to find other things which are fun to do because not everyone can afford days at adventure parks. So let’s look at what can be done in the garden, something which is fun and doesn’t involve hard work – especially for the grown-ups!

All of the annual flowers need to have the dead flowers removed every day, a boring job which children may not enjoy. But what about saving the seeds?

Get an ordinary seed tray and put newspaper in the base, with a few stones to weight it down.

A different tray will be needed for each type of flower. Children will soon find out that all types of poppy have capsules and the seeds fall out from a frill of holes in the top.

Have a look at the polyanthus. There are usually lots of seeds in pods still on the plants. The first lot of delphiniums have masses of seeds, but these can be poisonous so tell the children they must wash their hands after picking them.

Lovely ripening seeds can also be seen on foxgloves, sweet Williams, aubretia, peruvian lilies and lots more when you really look around.

If the children don’t know the names of the flowers, a trip to the library to find a book full of colour pictures will do the trick and the identification can be done on wet days.

Another wet day job is shaking the seeds out of the pods. I recall doing this when I was an apprentice gardener.

Presentation and labelling is important. Cheap envelopes are easy to find, although pretty ones will add to the pleasure of collecting the seeds.

An interesting outdoor job involves runner beans. Get some 8ft canes, one for each plant. Find a sandwich box and put two sheets of absorbent paper kitchen towel in the base and wet it.

Ask the children to place about 20 runner bean seeds on to the wet paper and cover the seeds with another sheet of wet kitchen paper.

The following day, get the children to open the box. Show them a dry bean seed and ask what has happened to the seeds in the box. They will have swollen.

After a week, have another look. They now have roots.

Pot them up and after two weeks the children will see the first leaves. Once the top two are fully formed, plant one seedling at the base of each 8ft cane.

Remind the children about Jack and the Beanstalk and ask them to stand beside one of the plants to compare heights.

After a week or so, the runner beans will be taller than the children!