Approaching children to the world of nature is a difficult thing for those who live in modern cities suffocated by cement.
It is however very important to give them the opportunity to get closer to the natural world from an early age so that they can learn about it, love it and respect its beauty and order because they feel the need not to disturb its balance from the very first years of life.
So let’s start our children for a while to the practice of gardening: we will accustom them to contact with Nature and its world, we will stimulate our creative capacity and give them the chance to have fun in a healthy way, in the open air, in a new dimension, more positive for their training.
The child is led to follow the patterns of behavior offered to him by his parents: seeing them work, intent on taking care of plants and flowers, he will naturally try to do the same.
However, it prefers to be autonomous and this means that it is advisable to reserve a piece of garden for it or, if you do not have this, put some vases on your balcony or terrace.
With a suitable orientation and encouragement from the parents, the children end up trying a little enchantment and the satisfaction of gardening; they will work their tiny piece of land with much greater enthusiasm than they would have tried to remove the weeds from the big garden on Father’s behalf.
As the boy grows, his personal garden or his cultivations in pots will be for him a motive of growing interest and satisfaction.
Location and size
The angle reserved for children must be chosen to keep in mind the general layout of the garden and, if possible, must be located near the house: particularly important this last, especially when children are still small, to be able to monitor them with ease; besides, the boys like to have the feeling that their garden is part of the whole garden and that it is not something that parents prefer to hide and ignore.
The area reserved for children should not be too big, otherwise, it will be heavy to remove the weeds, nor too small, otherwise the plants will end up forming a confused heap: the appropriate size could be about one square meter, or a bit of more if the child is big and active.
It is necessary to help him clean the area and prepare it for the first sowing, but the boy should be encouraged to do as much as possible alone, explaining the “how” and the “why” as the work progresses.
The problem of tools can be a difficulty, as there is no middle ground between the normal adult tools, bulky and potentially dangerous in the hands of a boy, and the toy tools, not very resistant and in practice useless.
Children should be taught to use terrace tools first and then carefully school, we will switch to adult gear, perhaps with the shortest handle.
How to keep the enthusiasm
The children and young people are not very patient and it is, therefore, necessary that they get quick results so that their enthusiasm remains intact and they do not have the temptation to unearth the seeds to see “how things are going”.
The Easter violets, Matthiola incana or the lberis umbellata are very suitable plants for a very young beginner: both the one and the other can be planted in order to draw the child’s name or the initials.
Just trace the letters in the flower bed with a stick and then sow the seeds, quite sparse, along with the furrows; if it is possible, it is good for the child to do it alone.
Once you have explained and shown some basic principles, the little gardener has to organize his own piece of land; further suggestions, advice, and aid must be given only if they are requested or if they appear to be truly indispensable. Another plant that is easy to grow and which gives quick results is, between the years, the nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus).
Climbing varieties can be arranged on supports formed by reeds that are to be planted in the ground at the center of circles of 25-30 cm in diameter; two nasturtium seeds should be planted in April, approximately at a depth of two and a half centimeters, at the base of each reed. When the seeds sprout, the weaker seedling should be removed (it can be used to replace those that have not germinated) and each plant, growing, is induced to wrap around the reed.
After the removal of dried flowers, the plants will continue to bloom abundantly throughout the summer.
Tropaeolum peregrinum, treated as a resistant annual plant, can be used in the same way; the seeds are opened outdoors in March or April; it is a plant that needs lots of water during its growth, and this is appreciated by children who like to give frequent waterings.
The colorful marigolds (Calendula officinalis) also develop rapidly and are found in many varieties, simple and double, in colors ranging from deep red-orange to pale lemon; Clarkia elegans, annual, they will be used for Christmas decorations.
Great will be the satisfaction of children in finding the products of their crops on the table.
Sage, Salvia officinalis, and basil, Ocymum basilicum, like the violets, can be arranged in such a way as to compose names or initials and, among other things, grow quickly.
But we must be careful to arrange the dense seeds; it is not necessary to cover them with the earth, just press them gently with a piece of wood: the result is obtained about fifteen days later.
Even the radishes are developed soon: a short row will have a remarkable success and it is possible to maintain a succession by planting them at intervals of two weeks.
Carrots, peas (preferably in the dwarf varieties) and pumpkins can also be grown if space permits; potatoes, on the other hand, require more attention.
It is important to foresee the needs of the garden and of the individual plants: the simplest plants to be cultivated in preparation for the following season are the biennials and those treated as such.
You can start with the violacciocche and do not forget me.
Lunaria is another nice biennial: the purple or brown covers of the flat siliques can be removed with thumb and forefinger, and uncover a silver membrane ideal for decorations.
The biennial plants should be sown in mid-summer, the seedlings are then thinned out and later transplanted.
They are going to be transplanted again in November and permanently put to stay, where they will flower in spring.
It is easy to place some bulbs on the ground: even department stores sell many varieties of tulips and hyacinths at a good price.
A diary to keep
When the need for simple planning has been made, it is necessary to convince the boy to keep a diary of his activity as a gardener and the results obtained.
In this way, when the flowers bloom, the little gardener will see the date on which they were planted, you will realize the speed with which certain plants grow and die and the time when others flourish.
Through a carefully kept diary, it is also possible to note a great deal of interesting information that is very useful for accustoming the boy to observe what happens in nature.
You can learn many things by comparing the dates of the harvest from one year to the next, or the weight of the fruits obtained from one summer to another; at the same time, certain errors can be detected, such as incorrect color distribution, and corrected if necessary the following year.
The diary may also be useful to note the appearance of butterflies, moths and other insects that can be seen in the garden, with drawings and descriptions: the child must also be helped to distinguish between useful and harmful insects.
Once the reproduction of the plants has been learned through sowing and division, other methods can be considered.
Cuttings are easy and interesting to prepare: certain plants, such as willow, oleander and ivy, quickly put roots in the water and can be used to illustrate the underlying principle propagation by cuttings.
The simplest cuttings, to begin with, are those of African violets, for the leaf with petiole, and of Coleus, which easily put up roots all year round.
Cuttings can also be made from carnations and placed in a sandy mixture around the rim of the vase; they will take root and produce seedlings in exactly the same way.
Easy to prepare are the cuttings of plants with aerial roots like the Scindapsus, the Philodendron, and the Syngonium.
Propagation by propagation can be taught in its simplest form, cultivating the trajectories; the stolons can be marched in late spring, in open terrain.
When the roots are formed on the “daughter” plants, the stolen is cut and the new seedling is planted.
The most complex margins, which require the preparation of the stem of a plant at a point where new roots must be developed, can be shown, for example, with the Ficus.
Who does not have a garden, can also create a reason of interest for the boys growing plants at home, or on windowsills.
It is possible to create miniature gardens with containers of all kinds: terrines, pans, painted tin cans can be designed in many different ways, like real gardens, and can be varied much more often than these.
Also, you can use pieces of stone, shells, and walnuts; the ryegrass can be sown in the middle of them to form a small path or path, which is drawn with the scissors that are used to cut the paper. Very suitable plants for a miniature garden are dwarf, saxifrage and sempervivum conifers and other small ones that can be placed between the stones.
In due course, you can plant small bulbs such as daffodils, cyclamen, and crocuses.
Among the stones you can put some moss, to hide the bulbs, after having planted them, until the shoots emerge.
The moss must be syringed, for the purpose of watering it, once or twice a week, depending on the atmosphere of the room in which the miniature garden is held.
When going for walks you can collect pebbles and stones of all kinds, covered with lichen, to decorate the small garden. The roses and small Sedum will gracefully enrich these gardens.
For younger children, you can place fruit seeds in a pot: from the seeds of orange, lemon, loquat, apricot, date, pear, and avocado will grow tiny trees.
But we must bear in mind that the avocado needs a little more heat to sprout. You can get amazing pineapple plants; cutting the top of the fruit, when it is still fresh, dipping it in a plate full of water for 48 hours and then putting it in a pot.
The upper parts of the carrot can also be treated in the same way.