Garden Days: activities for families with young children

My daughter, five years old, showing off her harvest last year! She turned these healthy greens into a salad for the whole family.

While most of the world winds down gardening in Autumn, preparing for the Winter freeze, in subtropical Australia autumn can be as exciting as Spring. The cooler weather also creates plenty of opportunities to get the children into the garden without fear of sunburn. Of course this Autumn is like no other Autumn, tinged with anxiety and apprehension as we deal with a pandemic that will likely change society forever. Many people are dealing with financial fears in the face of social isolation that might be required for months.

Colleagues and friends have also expressed concerns about spending that time “alone”. I have always enjoyed my alone time and as a working mother I rarely get true alone time or quality time alone with my children so that aspect of this crisis doesn’t worry me. Other aspects do, but this isn’t the right forum for me to share those views, so the alone time concern…

My work won’t be closing at this stage, but I have two weeks holiday soon and we will be locked down at that time. So, what do I plan to do?

Herbs and edible flowers waiting for me to have time to plant!

FIRST PRIORITY: Re-establish My worm farm. They struggle here in summer, but this weather is perfect and they will provide free liquid fertiliser.

I find worms multiply quickly with some good food like carrot peels and bits of lettuce, so I always start with a booster box and they tend to multiply quickly.

SECOND PRIORITY: Establish a proper herb garden. Herbs are great plants for children. Most of them engage the senses through touch and smell AND most are edible if you have a child that likes to put everything in their mouth. They generally grow quickly too. Our subtropical climate is too harsh for many plants over summer but most thrive in the cooler weather that has just started. I have some herbs already and this is the perfect time to add to the collection by propagating some seedlings or planting some bought from a local nursery. I am choosing some easy herbs that have also been used historically as anti-virals. Basil, Sage, Fennel, Dandelion, Oregano, Tumeric are my starters. As soon as they’re big enough we’ll cook with them or drink them as teas.

Some herbs I ordered from the Mudbrick Herb Cottage, a wonderful family business that operates exclusively online at the moment.

THIRD PRIORITY: Build a greenhouse. I have a flatpacked one just waiting to be constructed. It’s much easier to propagate in a controlled environment. It’s just a big jigsaw puzzle really and children get great satisfaction from building projects in my experience.

FOURTH PRIORITY: Propagate! From cuttings and from seed. I have some bush tucker plant seeds waiting in tidy little packets. My children love watching seedlings grow and I think they will find the cuttings fascinating .

These are Warrigal Greens, good Aussie Bush Tucker, waiting to be harvested.

I also plan to involve them in harvesting edible weeds and cooking with them. We’ll also experiment with some bush tucker recipes. I will be blogging as I go and adding more ideas for entertaining children in the garden. Watch this space!

My son, three years old, checking out his weevil farm! Bugs are so much fun!

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