Children are on holiday and it might be difficult to find interesting things for them to do. Here are some suggestions which might fill a few days and encourage them to take an interest in the garden.
When I was little we picked blackberries at this time of year and mum would make seedless bramble jelly. We were also lucky having a damson tree in a wild hedge alongside a field.
There are lots of other interesting things we can do when the children are on holiday. All annual flowers need deadheading every day - a boring job which children may not enjoy so encourage them to save seed?
Take a seed tray, put newspaper in the base with a few stones to stop the paper flying off in the wind, and fold the paper up the edge of the box. It's ideal for containing the dead flowers and seed pods. A different tray is needed for each flower type.
Children soon discover poppies have capsules and the seeds fall from a frill of holes in the top. You can hear them fall on the newspaper. Polyanthus have lots of seeds in pods on the plant. The first flush of delphiniums have masses of seeds, but warn children they're poisonous and to wash hands after picking. Ripening seeds can also be found on foxgloves, sweet William, aubretia, Peruvian lilies and lots more.
If children don’t know flowers' names a trip to the library for a book of colour pictures will do the trick. Identification can be done on wet days. Another wet day job is shaking seeds from the pods. I remember doing this as apprentice gardener, in particular begonia semperflorens seed we used to save, clean, sieve and pack.
Presentation and labelling is important. Cheap small envelopes are easy to find - the type used for prize money at flower shows.
Another idea is finding out the names of flowers then cutting out a colour picture from a seed catalogue and sticking this to the outside of the seed packet. It keeps them amused for hours. They then practice their best handwriting for the labels.
An interesting outdoor job involves runner beans.
Get some eight-feet long canes, one for each plant. To make this more interesting, find a sandwich box, put in two sheets of kitchen towel and enough water to ensure the paper is wet. Get children to sprinkle on the runner bean seed. The next day they will see the beans are twice their original size.
A few days later a root will emerge. Now get children to plant one seed at the base of each cane, they will then love the watering! They see the beans germinate, grow and how quickly they reach the top of the stick.
The best part is when they return to school and the beans are ready to pick. And yes, you've guessed it, they'll enjoy eating them even if they don’t like vegetables. But these are different because 'I grew them myself.'
Enjoy the holidays with children. Treasure every moment with them.
THIS WEEK'S TOP TIP
Now's the time to replant a strawberry bed, particularly if you allowed strawberry plants’ runners to grow in little pots alongside their parents.
If not, place runners in small pots containing any type of compost.
They can be kept in place using wire shaped like hairpins.
The new plants can be planted in rows in a few weeks.