Get outside with the kids and nurture a healthy lifelong hobby

School holiday fun with Jason and Heidi Hodges and friends in the garden.
School holiday fun with Jason and Heidi Hodges and friends in the garden. Photo: Supplied

I always write about what I'm doing in the garden. I hope you know how much enjoyment I get from my garden. Well, it's school holidays and gardening with the kids can be a fun, educational and cheap activity that gets kids outside and active and teaches them life skills and where our food comes from.

To get them started, give the kids their own area that they are responsible for, whether it's a garden bed, pots or windowsill. It can be small but make sure it's front and centre where it gets lots of attention and is often seen and talked about.

Show it off to friends and family and the kids will embrace the encouragement. I first grew tomatoes when I was 7 and still enjoy doing it today.

Heidi Hodges with her home-grown produce.
Heidi Hodges with her home-grown produce. Photo: Supplied

If your kids have grown out of the sand pit, it would make an excellent veggie patch. If it has a floor, just make some holes in the bottom for drainage and either replace the sand with potting mix or remove half the sand and add compost. This is a nice stepping stone in a child's life. They know the spot and it's a comfortable place for them.

When it comes to what tools to use, I like to give my daughter Heidi quality tools albeit in her size. There are lots of bright-coloured plastic kids' tools that are as useful as a pretend mower that blows balls in the air, and if we're talking two-year-olds, that's fine. But if you want a five- or six-year-old to enjoy gardening, they'll enjoy proper gear and get better results.

I have small gardening secateurs for Heidi and she uses them wearing gloves. We started with her when she was 4, heavily supervising her, but now she is comfortable to use them with me close by.

It's important to make it fun. There are so many electronic distractions like computers, tablets and phones. I like to talk constantly about the end result, how a home-grown strawberry will taste, how big the tomatoes will be and how high the passionfruit will grow. Encourage their imagination. Let them dream. I love the fact that gardening isn't just a time-waster with the kids. It can produce food that can improve your family's diet.

If you are a novice gardener and just want to have a go with the kids, try planting some seedlings which will increase your success rate and shorten the time between planting and produce. If you want to show your kids the complete cycle, start with seeds.

1. Have a rich, well-drained soil in full sun.

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2. Don't over-plant. Space plants as to the plant's grown size.

3. Water seedlings on a daily basis with a soft shower from a watering can or quality hose nozzle until they appear strong and bedded in.

4. Feed weekly with liquid fertiliser.

Heidi Hodges - the budding gardener.
Heidi Hodges - the budding gardener. Photo: Supplied

5. Keep an eye out for snails and slugs.

6. Remove any diseased or damaged branches.

7. Enjoy the journey more than the destination.

Gardening with Heidi is one of my all-time favourite things. To be able to pass on what my parents passed on to me is a beautiful thing.

What more could you want? Your daughter thinking you're clever, her learning something that she can do for the rest of her life and the radio on in the background playing Nat King Cole on a stunning spring day... Life's good and the cycle of life both in the Hodges family and the veggie patch continues.

See also: School holiday activities