Children are naturally curious and they love getting their hands on things - especially , it seems, things which involve mud and muck. Ask any keen gardener, horitculturalist, botanist or garden designer when their interest started and many of the will tell you they had the benefit of a parent, grandparent or other adult who cultivated their interest and showed them how plants grow and how to carry out many basic horticultural practices.
It is this love of plants which is often instilled at an early age, so how do we do it? The answer is to allow children to get their hands on plants as early as possible and to teach them about what plants do, their role in nature , how they affect animals, what feeds on them, and how to achieve success.
Allowing children to garden and grow easy plants les them learn how to grow plants well and sometimes, it can be a lesson in why a plant has failed to thrive as well. There is nothing quite so inspiring for a child than for them to have grown something which can be eaten, put on display and used by others.
To teach children about plants, let them have a small pot, bed or space in the garden. Let them decorate it and make it theirs and help them choose some plants to grow which suit the location and so stand a good chance of success. Large flowered varieties or quick growing crops are good as are container plants and crops like potatoes or strawberries, which will provide a tasty treat when ready to pick.
Choose the plant and site with them and let them go from sowing right through to picking the result - whether this is flowers or the crop, and explain each step and why we do it. Show them how to check for pests and how to take care of the plants by checking for weeds and pests. You do not need a lot of space for this - a window box or single pot can do just as well as a patch of ground and doing everything initially with them will give them confidence and knowledge to use for their own working later, when they will not need your help.
Just showing children how much you enjoy plants wil make them want to learn. You can be a firend, relative or parent, it does not matter but be ready to answer their questions or direct them to places where they can find out more about plants, depnding on the age of the child. You can discuss things like plant successiion by showing them mosses, lichens and smaller plants right up to trees in your garden or when you are out and about and ask them what they think about some gardens, parks or places they see often.
Simply making plants a part of their life will instill in any child a sense of discovery, learning and a journey which can lead to a life long love of all things horticultural.