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Gardening With Children – How To Get The Best Results From The Gardening Tasks - by Jonathan Yaakobi

Whether you have or your own garden and see the value in involving the children in its up-keep, or as a teacher in a school where horticultural activity is part of the curriculum, you may wish to give some thought to each of the main gardening tasks, to see how to obtain the most satisfying results from them. For where children are concerned, the quality of the results is judged not only by the physical state of the plants and features, but also by the fulfillment and inner development gained by the children.

 

<B>Health and safety</B>

 

Firstly though, prime consideration must be given to the safety of the children working in the garden. Never permit children to operate power tools of any description, including lawn mowers. Do not compromise on this! It should not be forgotten though, that hand tools can also pose a threat. Before embarking on work with a fresh set of kids, I always take a workshop where I take each tool in hand, explaining the hidden and not so hidden dangers. I also provide real life examples that I know of first hand, such as the young man who stabbed his own foot with a garden fork, or the gardener (me) who almost cut off his own finger with a pair of secateurs!

 

<B>Soil Management</B>

 

Soil management involves ensuring that there are sufficient nutrients available to the plants, and that the soil maintains a healthy, crumbly structure. The first may require periodic additions of fertilizer, preferably organic ones, while the latter involves consistently adding organic matter in the form of compost to the soil. It is of critical educational significance to stress that tendering the soil, is more important in the long run than feeding the plants, for the purpose of extracting more out of them in the short term.

 

An excellent way of engendering interest among school age children is to carry out soil tests once or twice a year. In this way, such expressions as “soil health” take on real, concrete and measurable meaning, as the soil’s pH, its salinity or nutrient levels are ascertained. In schools, control plots can be set up, where some plants receive chemical fertilizer alone, some only compost, and others nothing at all.

 

<B>Pruning</B>

 

Without a doubt, pruning, especially of ornamental plants, is one of the major tasks in the gardening calendar. From a safety point of view, children below the age of say 14 or 15 should not be allowed to work with pruning implements. Nonetheless, it is worthwhile encouraging younger children to understand the affects that pruning has on plants, the way it alters the growth pattern of branches and stems, and its implications for the future health of the plant. Always try to induce a sense of responsibility in the children. I also suggest, charging the younger children with the job of monitoring and recording the changes in the plants, during the months following the pruning.

 

<B>Watering and irrigation</B>

 

In dry climates where water shortages are endemic, it is needless to say, necessary to monitor strictly the water consumption of the garden plants. Again, from an educational point of view, the children must be made aware of how much they are using and how precious this resource is. For this purpose, I advocate a separate meter being installed especially for the garden, while use should be made of volumetric timers and computers that enable the application of precise quantities of water.



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Jonathan Ya'akobi

Your Personal Gardening Coach
 



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