The garden is a place of colour and variety seen in flowers, foliage, small wild animals and insects. For many people it is a place of relaxation, being positioned usually at the back of the home; the garden is seen as a quiet retreat from the bustling of the busy neighbourhood. Anecdotally, gardening has often been cited as a key pastime and means of exercise for older people, who literally are known to spend hours pottering around in their gardens. Amongst the busy professional it can be a status symbol with focus placed on the size, design and water features which will allow for sophisticated dining via garden parties and barbeques.
The interest in gardening is beginning to grow in momentum once again in light of the benefits for young, inquisitive and active children. Despite computerized interactive games, the internet and satellite television, physical outdoor exercise is paramount for the healthy development of children. With the array of activities possible in the garden, there are a growing number of initiatives worldwide focussed on increasing the number of child gardeners.
For instance, in New Zealand, the Featherston School has seen the benefit of gardening for provoking innovation, teamwork and focus amongst the team of child gardeners who participated in a gardening competition. In Syria, a school teacher has been reported to have emphasised the role gardening can play to help provide a means of escapism for children caught in war-torn countries. The United Kingdom has now seen a growing number of families turn to allotments where they are able to grow and sell their own vegetables and fruit. In fact the waiting lists for allotments are lengthy for some neighbourhoods.
What does this mean for our children? Well, most countries are facing economic hardship and recession, in extreme cases there is increased poverty and risk of malnutrition as food costs and energy bills soars. The ability to turn to the garden for both recreation and sustenance has become a real and viable option for many. Children are best placed to be trained, enthused and exposed to the benefits of gardening, and growing their own food. There is a real danger that an entire generation can be far removed from the joys of gardening and to greater or lesser extent farming. To avoid this, children need to once again see the benefits of sowing, nurturing, and reaping ones’ own goods, which can be used or sold. Society has a responsibility to equip the next generation on how to produce natural goods which are not necessarily reliant on high technology equipment. Children must also be able to enjoy the beauty of the garden and recognise they too can contribute to the stunning array of colours as seen on some of the nationals gardening events such as the Chelsea Flower show in the United Kingdom.
Gardening for children needs to be promoted in schools, children reading story books and television so that the youth of today can become the expert gardeners and farmers of tomorrow.