My 4-year old grandson, Jacob not only likes dinosaurs, animals and going on adventures in the wilderness, he is proving to be a budding gardener. He is always eager to get his little green fingers dirty in the soil and especially likes helping his mummy Jesse to grow flowers and food that they can eat – although he’s yet to discover that sausages don’t grow on trees!
Ready to get started on tending his plot, he’s made me a wish list with all the things that I can buy (good old grandma) and has generously picked things that he says his mum would like for their garden and for his dad to make.
He says that they definitely need a shed, but as they don’t have much space he wants a small one like those that the guards stand in outside Buckingham Palace. I have shown him a picture of the Garden Sentry Shed from Forest, which has a footprint of just 93 x 58cm and stands to attention at just over 2m tall. It will be perfect for storing his mum and dad’s spades, rakes and forks and there are shelves for putting Jacob’s small tools and watering can safely out of reach of his dog, Jet.
The shed’s made from smooth, planed pressure treated timber and has a zinc roof that gives it superb weather protection. Jacob however, prefers to paint it blue and says that Cuprinol’s Garden Shades, Barleywood Blue is his favourite colour (confirmation that he really is a budding Alan Titchmarsh).
Apparently I can buy the Shed for £229.99 online (www.gardensite.co.uk), which will save me £50 of the recommended retail price. A 1L tin of Cuprinol Shades costs £11 from B&Q
Seeds for mummy
As they don’t have much soil to dig, Jacob thinks his mummy would like the “cute” Personalised Wooden Crate Planter by Plant A Box, which could be printed with the words Mummy’s Allotment, which he found on www.notonthehighstreet.com for £34. Within minutes though, he’d changed his mind as he thinks that his dad could knock up a similar one in his shed!
Instead he will be buying (with my money!) The Funky Veg and Psychedelic Salad Kit (£26, notonthehighstreet.com), to grow with his mummy, as she likes eating cucumber
His ‘must-have’ kit includes Lemon Cucumber, Red Dazzle Lettuce, Purple Spring Onions, Golden Beetroot & Rainbow Radish seeds and seeds of purple carrots, red Brussels sprouts, stripy tomatoes, yellow courgettes and multi coloured Swiss chard, which he says his dad would like the taste of. The kit also comes with five starter growing peat pots and five peat blocks, which Jacob tells me, magically expand when watered. And he will also get five plant markers as well as a list of sowing and growing tips in the box.
Raising his game
As his growing ambitions include strawberries and also potatoes for making chips, he suggests we find room for a bigger bed too. There are many raised beds available online but I have suggested the trusty standard wooden ones from www.harrodhorticultural.com
Harrod’s raised beds come in 5 heights (up to 76cm), so can be added to as his interest grows over the years.
The raised beds are sturdily made from pre-drilled, 3.5cm thick planks so will be easy for him and daddy to build. Prices start at £31 for a planter 15 x 60 x 60cm but as he has BIG ambitions, and intends to add some fruit bushes to his list, we are going for one that measures 1.2 x 1.8 x 61cm, which will cost me £216!
To grow his herbs, Jacob would also like a ‘special’ bed and has chosen the wooden Veg Trug Kids from www.quickcrop.co.uk
The Veg Trug costs £69 and will arrive flat pack, ready to be built. His dad is going to line the inside to prevent the soil water dirtying the wood – not that it matters though, as this too is to be painted blue! The Trug measures approximately 63cm high x 46cm deep and 49cm wide and has the capacity on 55L. He says that he is pleased that it’s “tall”, as I won’t have to bend and hurt my back whilst weeding.
Plants need water
Jacob has been helping to weed and water the garden from when the moment he could walk!
Jacob already knows that he will have to be responsible and give his plants a drink every now and again and also remove any weeds that are trying to steal water from them. As there are a lot of stairs to climb to get to the kitchen, he thinks it would be a good idea to have a water butt, just like grandma but not like my ugly green one.
Instead he’s chosen one that looks like the giant Mediterranean style garden pots that he’s seen with his mummy at the garden centre, which she thinks are beautiful. His choice is the 250L Antique Amphora Water Butt, which comes in Sandstone, Granite and Terracotta and costs £349.95
He says that I’ll just “looooove it”, as the top of the butt is a pot that can be planted with flowers and the tap is set high enough for me to fit his watering can underneath, so it will be a big help to me when I visit him. (Me thinks…that he needs to get a job!)
You have to be very careful when collecting eggs – they easily break and I don’t like scrambled eggs!
Jacob has heard me, and his dad Dan wax lyrical about the times we kept chickens when he was a boy and how he made his pocket money from the spares that he sold, so he’s keen to have a go and tells me that he has practiced collecting eggs at his friend’s house. This has yet to be decided, as Jet the dog just might not be quite as helpful at collecting eggs as he thinks he will be.
The coop that he says will fit in their garden perfectly is a modern plastic Eglu design from Omlet
He likes the Basic Coop from omelet.co.uk, which costs £235. It is large enough at 74 x 41 x 81cm, to house up to four medium-size hens. It’s also an easy to clean hen house, which has a slide out tray to collect the droppings, which he can be put in his dad’s compost bin. There is also a large door at the back, so he will be able to easily reach in and collect the eggs, plus an optional 2m long fox resistant run to allow the chickens to get some exercise.
It’s essential that hens have some outside space they can call their own, as they not only like to lie outside with a wing outstretched on hot days but also love roaming around eating grass, digging for worms, having dust baths and generally having fun. Unfortunately, if you don’t pen them in, they will quickly ruin your garden!
When Dan, Jacob’s dad was a boy we always kept a Rhode Island Red hybrid called Red Rangers, which are recommended if you want them for meat – we found them to be excellent layers. A typical hybrid hen costs around half the price of a typical pure breed hen. We also had Legorns, which were a bit flighty and used to roost at night in the trees and Silky Bantams just because they’re fun.
I recommend buying your first brood from the same supplier as being reared together the hens are unlikely to fight. Always buy Point of Lay (P.O.L.) hens, which are about 3-6 weeks off the point of laying. Hens usually start laying when they are about 16-22 weeks old but the longer they take, the more their bodies will have matured and the bigger their eggs will be when they start to lay.
What a load of rubbish!
Jacob already knows that the secret to growing is to look after the soil – he’s helped me last autumn put compost on top of the soil in my flowerbeds, so now he wants to make some of his own.
He’s chosen to have the Bokashi Composter from Wiggly Wigglers that can be used indoors or outdoors, as it will compost all their kitchen waste without it becoming smelly. It uses safe and friendly bacteria, which eat the ‘rubbish’ and turn it into compost and fertiliser, which is called “Worm Tea” that can be used for feeding the soil and his plants.
The grey bin is pretty small, measuring just 30 x 24.5 x 37cm, which holds up to 18L of compost. The start-up Value Pack costs £65 from www.wigglywigglers
HOW TO Make memories
Give children the gift of gardening and you will be inspiring their creativity and giving them a healthy hobby that will last for their whole lives. Start them off growing easy annuals, scented plants and tasty, quick-growing, edible plants, which give quick rewards and teach them all there is to know about nurturing.