For everybody lucky enough to have an outdoor space of their own this year – especially during lockdown, this article’s for you. We’ve come up with some recommendations for you to get the most from your outdoor space, together with the best ways to transform your garden into a safe and fun place to spend time.
Create a vegetable patch
Why not sew some vegetable seeds with the kids? There’s low frost risk now, so you can get busy this month sewing seeds outdoors. Monty Don recommends planting the following this month:
- Beetroot – a low-maintenance option great for those new to gardening
- Outdoor varieties of cucumber
- Sprouting broccoli
Build an educational mini pond
You can build a pond from an old washing up bowl, it’s really that simple! Spring is a fabulous time to create a new pond, as you’ll be able to watch it transform over the summer months. The kids will enjoy watching pond skaters, water lice, freshwater shrimps, and maybe even a few dragonflies. It’ll be a guaranteed hot spot for any lurking local frogs and toads, and you might even see a bird having a bath.
- Find your container – it’ll need to be built strong to withstand frost
- Put your container in your chosen place before you fill it with water – position it where it will be safe!
- Put a layer of gravel at the bottom (don’t use soil)
- Make sure wildlife can get in and out – use rocks and bricks to an entrance and an exit to the pond.
- Fill your pond! Ideally it’ll be filled with rainwater as tap water has too many chemicals
- Choose some pond plants but take note of the various levels of water they like to sit in when purchasing
If you’re thinking about introducing a pond into your back garden, you’ve got to be super-cautious when it comes to making sure it’s safe for the kids. Think through where you’ll position your it, and ensure you look into fencing around the pond, and using mesh covers across the top.
Create a sensory garden
This is always a fantastic thing to do – and it’ll benefit the kids as well as the minibeasts! Look at plants that have interesting smells, textures and even tastes for your garden’s kid-friendly sensory patch. Here’s some fantastic advice from the RHS Campaign for School Gardening.
Flowers have bright, bold colours to attract birds and insects to them for pollination and seed dispersal, but they are wonderful for humans to look at too! Choose bold leaved and architectural plants, perhaps mulched with different coloured items such as slate, pebbles or shells. Steer clear of recycled coloured glass mulches.
- Sunflowers, Helianthus annuus; a bright, bold looking flower that can grow 30 cm in height in a week in ideal conditions.*
- Love-in-a-mist, Nigella damascena; sun-loving, bright blue flowers.*
- Chameleon plant, Houttuynia cordata ’Chameleon’, three-toned foliage which smells of lemon.
- Swiss chard ‘Bright Lights’, Beta vulgaris; brightly coloured stems and foliage.*
- Heuchera cultivars are available in many vibrant colours and shades from lime green to red and dark purple.
There are so many delicious plants that it’s difficult to choose just a few. Although many of these are used in our cooking, please remember that some children could have allergies to any one of the following:
- Spearmint, Mentha spicata; a vigorous growing herb, which tastes great with peas or new potatoes.
- Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis; highly fragrant leaves used to flavour meat and fish. Its scent is wonderful.
- Chives, Allium schoenoprasum; in addition to delicious foliage that can be used in salads. This plant also produces pretty pink, mauve or purple flowers.
- Nasturtium, Tropaeolum majus; a colourful salad can be made from the beautiful peppery orange, red or yellow flowers and the foliage.*
- Wild strawberry, Fragaria vesca; this plant loves partial sun and fairly damp conditions and produces small, sweet, delicious fruit.*
- Pot marigold, Calendula officinalis; gorgeous, sunny flowers, with aromatic, dark green leaves. The petals brighten up any salad.*
- Sweet basil, Ocimum basilicum; the Italians wouldn’t consider cooking without this delicious, fresh-tasting herb.*
- Vegetables. These are plants too and taste no better than when you grow them yourself. Try carrots, radishes, lettuces, broad beans or peas.*
The aromas given off by flowers are wonderful to enjoy, but the smells have a purpose too. Plant scents attract insects to the flowers for pollination and some smelly leaves deter insects from eating them.
- Curry plant, Helichrysum italicum; curry smelling leaves which give off a spicy aroma on a warm, sunny day.
- Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia; relaxing, fresh aroma with tiny purple flowers.
- Chocolate cosmos, Cosmos atrosanguineus; beautiful, maroon flowers give off a chocolate/ vanilla scent – a big hit with the kids!
- Stocks, these scented summer flowers are very traditional and come in a variety of pink, white & red shades.*
- Lemon scented geranium, Pelargonium crispum; crinkly leaves that smell of lemon when rubbed.
- Oregano/wild marjoram, Origanum vulgare; the aromatic leaves are delicious dried or fresh in pasta dishes. This plant also produces pretty pink or white flowers in midsummer to early autumn.*
Sit in your garden and listen to all the sounds of nature around you; the bees buzzing, the birds singing, the sounds of the wind rustling through grasses and plants. Add a water feature or wind chimes to enhance the sounds in your garden.
- Greater quaking grass, Briza maxima; a grass that rustles in the wind with nodding, lantern-like heads of flowers.*
- Miscanthus oligostachyus ‘Nanus Variegatus’; pretty bamboo-like foliage, which creates a rustling noise.
- Sweetcorn, Zea mays; another rustler and good to eat too!*
- A bamboo, Phyllostachys; pretty foliage which whispers in the wind.
- Fountain grass, Pennisetum alopecuroides; long, evergreen grass, with bristly spikelets.
Leaves vary between plants, from rough to smooth, furry to spiky. Every texture has a purpose; many plants that are nice to feel have adapted to a specific natural environment in some way. These can be succulents or have hairy leaves to cope with dry conditions. Here are a few plants that are nice to touch.
- Lamb’s ears, Stachys byzantina; as its common name suggests, its downy leaves resemble the ears of a lamb.
- Silver sage, Salvia argentea; large, silvery –white leaves covered in cotton wool like down.
- Jerusalem sage, Phlomis fruticosa; soft, downy leaves and stems with pretty, yellow flowers.
Consider if spiky plants are suitable for your school garden and pupils before using them.
Our favourite 10 garden interior ideas for you
Of course, the garden is not all about the kids. You’ll want to make the most of it too. We’re thinking al fresco dining after the kids are bed – a date night in the garden, and why not!? Here are some suggestions to add that extra special touch.
Pink Nina, East London Parasols
Golf Ball Lamp, Ultra LEDs
Chair + Footstool, Homebase
Bistro Set Wheatgrass, Hartman Berkeley
LED Festoon String, Ultra LEDs
2 Piece Lantern Set in Silver, Wayfair
Garden Shelter, VonHaus
Vintage Lamp Festoon String, Ultra LEDs