Having a gardening party
Planting can make a brilliant party activity if your little-one has a summer birthday. Turn the kids out into the garden with some pots and compost, give them a quick demo and leave them to get on with it. At this time of year, you can often pick up cheap-and-cheerful late season bedding plants from nurseries and garden centres. They may be a bit leggy, but they'll be in full flower and even clumsy planting will result in an impressive display. Planted pots are a great party bag substitute, so you won't need to bother with all that plastic tat. Get some labels to avoid arguments and tears over which gardening creation belongs to which child at going-home time. If you throw in a few coloured pens and stickers, you might even get away with label and pot decorating as a warm-up activity before the planting starts. It's probably a good idea to provide a couple of pairs of kid-sized gardening gloves in case any of them Don't like getting dirty. And make sure they all wash their hands, especially before they tuck into the party food compost is teeming with bacteria. If your child doesn't have a summer birthday but you'd still like a planting party, one of these ideas might grab you: September-November this is the ideal time for planting bulbs. Try one hyacinth per child in a 15cm pot, or a handful of crocus bulbs (encourage them to plant bulbs 'pointy-side-up'). December-March sweet peas do well from a winter sowing. If you have time, soak the seeds in water overnight before the party as it can help them to germinate. April-May you're spoilt for choice with seed sowing in early spring try sunflowers, clarkia, cosmos, nasturtiums or quick-and-easy veg like peas and runner beans. If you're really organised, you could send the children home with tips to help them (and their parents) keep their plants alive. A little root around the RHS website will uncover gems like this child-friendly advice for growing sweet peas. Happy growing! You can find out more about Mary and her garden at www.brookendcottagegarden.com.