Sometimes gardens can be more of a drain or a burden on the environment than a support. This is often caused by non-native plant choices which drain resources. They require more water, pesticides and care than local plants which can withstand weather and environmental conditions better than imported ones.
Being eco-friendly isn’t only good for the environment and the soul, it’s also an example we set for our children, who will carry on our green habits for us into the future. This is why it’s important to talk about what’s environmentally friendly and what isn’t. To get kids interested in being eco-friendly, start in the garden! Here are some tips to get started with an ecologically friendly garden with your children.
- Start small (or inside)
If you’re starting out with an eco-garden, it can be a bit overwhelming to think “I have to fill this whole garden with verdant leaves and I have no idea where to begin!”. Totally understandable. So start off inside! Cut your teeth on a few potted plants, find out what makes them thrive, and go from there.
If you’re keen to spend more time outdoors, potted plants are good for that too. You can see where they thrive in your garden (whether they need more sun, or less, for instance), and you can easily re-pot them or plant them in the ground when you’re ready. Try assigning a plant to a child and telling them what’s involved in its care. This is a good way of starting out because it keeps things simple.
- Fit in with your environment
It can be a bit hard to define what exactly your local environment needs or would benefit from. Perhaps more flowers for bees? It depends on where you live. Asking your keen gardening neighbours can be good, as they know which plants thrive with little input and which ones need a lot of water or chemicals to survive. You may even be able to get some compost from them to get started before you start your own compost heap.
Make sure your plants fit in not only with your garden and neighbourhood, but also with your family needs. If your family enjoys fresh cooking, plant a herb garden. If they appreciate pretty things, plant flowers. Choosing plants that your family will love and appreciate means the plants might be cared for better. So think about how you can support local wildlife but also your family’s needs.
- Keep things natural
Wherever possible, use natural materials and fertilisers in your eco-garden. Avoid plastic packaging when you’re buying garden supplies. Sometimes this means getting in touch with local community gardens to see if you can take or buy any cuttings, soil or compost from them. At the garden centre, avoid packaged plants and try to buy pots made from clay. To get kids involved, invite them along to choose plants and pots with you. This way they’ll be more motivated to get involved with the garden.
One big way gardeners stay eco-friendly is by developing a nice compost pile. This means putting all plant-waste (so vegetable peelings and leftovers - but not meat and cheese) into a little bin which is periodically emptied out onto a pile outside where the garden and grass clippings also go. You then move it around every once in a while, and as it decomposes creates nutritious mulch for the garden. If you’re unsure what goes on a compost pile, contact local garden services as they will be able to advise you. Teach your kids that compost is how they’ll feed their plant buddies and they’ll be composting right there with you!
- Different spaces for different ages
When it comes to gardening with kids, you don’t want them to feel overwhelmed or like this is a task that is too difficult (they probably have chores to think about too, so don’t put too much pressure on them!). However, it’s good to teach responsibility from a young age. So give your kids their own little patches to work on, and show them how to look after it properly.
But, of course, a 3 year old won’t have the same capabilities or aspirations as a 10 year old. So if you have multiple kids, give them separate areas to work in so they don’t get in each other's’ way. The 3 year old can nurture easy plants like tomatoes, whereas the older children can look after herbs, flowering plants and vegetables. So long as you are enthusiastic about gardening, and they know what they need to do, they’ll happily get involved!