It may be cold outside but Christmas gifts are an ideal way to get children into gardening – and you don’t have to spend a fortune either.
Here are my favourites this season.
These ceramic planters (Finnish for ‘egg cup’) Hair Grow Kits include two sachets of seed – basil for short ‘hair’ and ryegrass for long ‘hair’ – plus compost and growing instructions.
Choose from a frog, dog, pig, duck, seal and cow, four new smiley faces and four cats, £3.95 each, www.mr-fothergills.co.uk
Choose from Seed Starter Pots and Complete Grow Kits, to Flower Mixes and Activity Kits – providing seeds for your little garden helpers to grow, as well as extra games and activities all included.
There’s even a fully functioning Mini Greenhouse for them to build, from £2.50, www.johnsons.co.uk
Paint Your Own Feeder
Introduce your children to caring for wild birds. Complete with non-toxic paints and brush.
Made from FSC® certified timber. 19 x 14 x 18cm, £8.99, www.suttons.co.uk
Bug Hotel Book
This illustrated nature book lets you discover all about the insects and mini-beasts that live in our gardens. A fun and informative book for children to learn about nature.
Fourteen pages, £8.99, www.dobies.co.uk
Little Miss Sunshine or Mr Happy Gift Set
Collection of 10 packets of T&M’s limited edition Mr Men and Little Miss seeds.
Just to add to the fun, it comes with a mug to go with the seed selection, £19.99, www.thompson-morgan.com
Kids Garden Tool Bag Set
Includes tool bag, mini watering can, mini hand rake, trowel and fork, £14.99, www.briers.co.uk
Treeve the Gardener Mouse
Part of the Tiny Mice Of Mousehole collection, inspired by a little village in Cornwall – Treeve means ‘farmstead’ in Cornish.
He is hand felted with love and care and will bring a touch of childhood magic, helping little ones to enjoy imaginative play, £15.95, www.hurnandhurn.com
Little Gardening Tool Gift Set
Little Gardener Fork and Trowel in a gift box, high-quality carbon steel tools with painted wooden handles, £17.95, www.annabeljames.co.uk
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JOBS FOR THE WEEKEND
Winter can be a tough time for birds in terms of water and food, so keep supplies well topped up. Once you start feeding, don’t stop – they will come to depend on it.
Alpines can be sown from seed, as they need a period of cold to break their dormancy. A moveable cold frame can be positioned over the sown area to protect it from excessive wet. Alternatively, the seeds can be put in the fridge, for sowing next spring. This will really upset your family.
Pot up Hippeastrum (Amaryllis) bulbs, and bring them back into active growth with regular watering and feeding.
Plant tulip bulbs at the latest this month. Some species tulips go on year to year, some are treated as bedding, and replaced every year.
Apply a mulch to protect plants that are borderline hardy. The plants’ own leaves, e.g. Kniphofia, can be tied up and used as protection for the crowns underneath.
Helleborus niger (Christmas rose) blooms can look unsightly when splashed with muddy raindrops. A mulch will reduce this, and cloches can always be used where practical.
Ensure all standpipes and irrigation lines are drained, to avoid damage caused by water freezing inside them.
Continue to plant roses. Avoid planting in areas where roses were previously grown otherwise new introductions may suffer from replant diseases (rose sickness).
Shrubs normally pruned hard in the spring – such as Buddleja davidii, Cornus alba and Lavatera – can be cut back by half now, to prevent wind rock and neaten their appearance.
Ensure any pruning of Acer (maple) and Betula (birch) is completed before the end of the month to avoid bleeding of sap from cuts.
Make sure you have removed all shading from the greenhouse panes, to maximise light levels. If applying insulation, attach it only to the sides and north-facing roofs to let in as much light as possible.
Avoid buying Poinsettia that have been accidentally chilled, particularly those sold from street stalls on cold days. Once home, place them in a warm, light place, away from drafts, to make sure they last for as long as possible.
Place hyacinths in a cool, bright place in the home. If it’s too warm, the leaves will elongate and the flowers will fade quickly.