If your small child is even vaguely interested in helping you in the garden, or on the allotment, then I’d urge you to get him/her this great book from Kew Gardens (£12.99). Anything that engages their interest as they get older is a good thing, and especially if it links growing to cooking vegetables and appreciating great flavour and taste. This book does both seamlessly, with key vegetables, simple to follow growing instructions, and followed with a tasty child-centric recipe for each vegetable. Some of the growing tips are a bit basic (e.g. the tip of covering small plants with glass jars, without mentioning ventilation or removing on sunny days) so you’ll still need to oversee the process to guarantee success. I’d say it would appeal from 6 up to 12. Once in their teens (if, by some miracle, they are still ‘into’ books) I’d recommend James Wong’s Grow for Flavour, which is a ‘grown-up’ book but with lots of trendy graphics and infectious childlike enthusiasm.
I’m a big fan of plug plants. It’s a great way to start off a garden from scratch and takes a lot of the faff and disappointment from growing from seed. I used Rocket Garden plants to start off my vegetable garden two years ago, and I still use them to top up during the season. Rocket Gardens are organic, and all the packaging is cardboard and straw… no plastic waste. It is also really exciting to open and unpack! I’d still encourage some seed planting with children as they’d miss the most wonderous miracle of ‘growing your own’ otherwise, but in terms of getting a bounty of rewarding crops then plug plants will most definitely help keep them engaged.
This gift comes as a gift-boxed voucher. Simply redeem it when you are ready to receive the plants.
Tools of their own (but that you can adopt when they lose interest) – Spear & Jackson stainless steel children’s spade (18.99) – Manufactum Child’s Watering Can (£17.50)
Go for quality metal and wood… not plastic, which does work, breaks and ends up as landfill. When my daughter was little she loved having her own spade and watering can. There was a patch on the allotment where she just got on with her own thing. A simple, small metal watering can can be decorated with a child’s name to make it more fun. I still have my daughter’s spade and, although she has lost interest in gardening, I find the shorter handle makes it very useful working around raised beds! And who knows, she may want it back one day…