Little Green Fingers!
Thinking on renting an allotment but don't know where to start? Firstly you need to decide what your motives are!
Do you want an allotment for your children's benefit, or do you mean business and are determined to learn how to grow your own veggies ? Ideally it will be a combination of the two but you must have realistic expectations if you want to get the kids' interest. It is great "me time" for parents, a place you can go to unwind and have your own space and we all know the benefits for children; the knowledge of where the food comes from, how to plant a seed, water the seedlings, watch the fruit and vegetable develop, identify passing birds and butterflies among many others.
"Some kids will naturally be drawn to it and some wont be interested at all, My eldest loves it and the other doesn't want to get out of the car! It can be hard work but also very rewarding." Says Andrea mother of two.
You will have to be prepared to do all the ground work, and have a plan for the kids depending on what they are interesting in doing. Jo Whittle, Cress Project Co-ordinator for Active Gardens, suggests to start with some activities at home such as growing seeds in pots, doing some digging, or take them to visit an allotment.
All of these and the knowledge of your children, will help you find tasks they will enjoy doing. Any tasks you decide to give them make them "own" them. Don't be too hard on yourself on trying to be perfect, and remember to keep the kids interested it is all about being patient and being creative. It is their project not just another "help mum and dad chore" which will give you the better chances of success.
How much does it cost? In Ipswich it costs approximately £40 per year for a 10 rod plot (90ft x 30 ft). Depending on where you are some sites have available plots, others have 20 or more on their waiting lists. Children under the age of 16 are not allowed on site without adult supervision.
Is there an ideal age that I should get my kids involved? Some mums carry their babies on their back as they work the ground, others agree that starting a child young enough helps children develop an interest that could last their entire life. But the truth is there is no magic number, it's all about giving it a go with a positive outlook and hope for the best! People who have been raised around allotment work start their kids young, as they want to give their children the same lovely memories they had.
If I decide to start tomorrow what do I need to do?
Choose an allotment: Firstly you need to contact your local council or field secretary from your preferred site.
- Do your homework- There are plenty of books and internet sites about gardening, be prepared. You'll have to go the the site and do the ground work to make sure it is safe for the children, collecting and disposing of any sharp glass and metal debris as it surfaces.
- Gardening Tools- Car boot sales are great but most supermarkets sell cheap kids gardening tools. It is a good idea to get each child their own to avoid any squabbling. You will need a tool box to carry all of your gardening tools as most allotments don't have spare sheds. Try to get your children into the habit of wearing gloves, there are some nice and colourful ones available.
- Hose- Allotments have their own water supply but you need to bring a hose
- Tasks for the kids- Have a plan, find out what tasks they like doing. Don't raise your hopes - even if they like digging, they'll probably only enjoy digging holes. Let them get dirty - it's all part of the fun. Even if they're not doing anything useful, as long as they're not doing damage and not taking too much of your time, visits can be considered a success, so praise their hard work even if it's not very productive.
- First Aid Kit- It is always a good idea to bring a basic First Aid Kit with you.
What happens if I can't cope? Janice, Field Secretary at Maidenhall Allotment says:
"If after you take a plot on it is becoming too much, you only have to inform the field secretary and the necessary returns paperwork can be completed. This is a lot better than letting the plot get out of hand and then eviction letters being sent.
How long should I expect my kids to spend on the allotment? Make the visits short, and be prepared to keep switching tasks. Have picnic breaks if you want to stay more than an hour, walk around to see the site. Most parents take their kids twice a week during the holidays but the council expects families to work on it for at least 10 hours a week. Building fairy houses together is a fun allotment activity[/caption]
Any ideas on how to keep the kids entertained? Many allotments run competitions and kids activities, who grows the biggest vegetable, or scarecrow competition. Non-growing activities are a great for the kids to associate allotment work with fun and not see this as a chore, ultimately this is what is going to motive them. Some simple activities could be building a mud track for toys cars, digging holes or burying a few surprises beforehand and turn digging into a Treasure Hunt. Jo Whittle, Cress Project Co-ordinator for Active Gardens says:
Why not plant bush fruit plants as they create ground cover from weeds and the kids will love to pick fruits from them. They will learn about possible hazards like pricks from the bush and learn as the fruit matures in front of their eyes.
Some of my favourite Little Green Fingers non-growing activities are: 1-Fairy Gardens 2-Make your own Garden Markers 3- DYI Warm Farm 4-Wind Chime Crafts 5-NUMBER HUNT 6- Nature Knots & Crosses 7- Simple Bug Hotel for Kids
For more great ideas click here
Allotments and Children
- Children should be supervised at all times.
- Compost and organic fertilizer is highly recommended.
- Make it very clear to the children that they can't go on other plots, there might be hazards there you don't know about
- Remind your children to wash their hands
Allotments are communities as you'll find other people happy to share seeds, their own produce and loads of advice with you. The main benefits include helping relief stress, keeping you fit and teaching the kids about appreciating nature and encouraging them to try a variety of vegetables. It is also incredibly rewarding and will provide them with a sense of accomplishment which is great for their self-esteem. Happy Growing!