Gardening with a toddler

It’s not always easy. It can be quite destructive. But teaching my son about plants, the seasons and where his food comes from, is one of the reasons I wanted a garden in the first place.

I grew up helping my Mum in the garden and pretty much anything I know about plants comes from her. She taught me how to tell my perennials apart, how to take a cutting, how to sew a seed. She was there the first time I watched a, much-anticipated, fresh green seedling poke it’s head through a tray of soil, encouraging me along the way. I’m so grateful for that and want the same thing for my son.

He is still very young and, practically speaking, there are times when his presence is somewhat counter-productive. When he was really little I found it nigh-on impossible to get much done. His naps were very unpredictable and that made it hard to keep bedding plants happy, waiting for an opportunity to get them into pots, or I’d get part way through a job and he’d wake demanding attention while I rushed to get things in a fit state to leave. I even resorted to desperately sowing seeds in my raised beds with a head torch in the evening, when I new he was going to stay asleep for longer.

When he started napping more predictably, things became a little bit easier. If he fell asleep in his push-chair, I’d rush back home and park him up in the garden, while I got stuck in, setting myself a small job and working as fast as I could. Speed-gardening. Honestly, not my preferred approach, but at least I got a few things done. Sometimes I got really lucky and he let me put him in a playpen and entertain himself for a while, but I still had to work quickly.

Now he’s a bit older, things are starting to change. He’s getting involved. He amazed me the other day, walking over to my little ‘growhouse’ with his watering can and giving the plants a drink, unprompted by me. He loves his watering can and it keeps him distracted while I can crack on with things. Although, admittedly it does sometimes result in me spending most of my time refilling it, instead of gardening. He made me smile recently when he tried to give the daffodils ‘a drink’ through their flowers, as if they were little, yellow, plant mouths.

Last Summer, when he had not been walking long, he quickly learnt that he could find food in the garden. He’d march straight down to the tomoatoes, pluck them off the plants and smear their seeds all over his face. He was also particularly liked to pick green beans and wander around the garden munching away on them. I hope this year he’ll be able to get even more involved.

And for me, the garden is like an extra room in our home, especially in the Summer. We’re currently in the middle of major building-works to the back of our house and one of the main reasons is because we want to add large glass doors to bring the garden into the house. If the kitchen is the heart of a home, then I’d like the garden to be the lungs of ours; bringing light and air in. When the building-work is done, I’m hoping for a long, warm summer where our family can be outside as much as possible and my son can start to grow things for himself…

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