NETWORK case study. Dominic and Malin Hooghuis with kids Atlas, 5 (stripes) and Zeppy, 7 who has created his own backyard garden. Why you should keep up with your gardening post covid. The mental health benefits getting outside can have on adults and children, especially with school holidays coming up. Picture: Tim Carrafa
NETWORK case study. Dominic and Malin Hooghuis with kids Atlas, 5 (stripes) and Zeppy, 7 who has created his own backyard garden. Why you should keep up with your gardening post covid. The mental health benefits getting outside can have on adults and children, especially with school holidays coming up. Picture: Tim Carrafa

Best way to build a child friendly garden

Getting your hands dirty and planting food to share as a family has been a soothing hobby for many while buckling down at home.

Research commissioned by Bunnings shows an increase in their website traffic as Australians look for online gardening tips.

Some of the most viewed stories include garden ideas and outdoor area advice to the 10 fastest growing plants. It also found two in five Australians planned to improve their gardens in the coming months.

"During lockdown we saw an increase in popularity across all plant types with customers tackling everything from growing their own herbs and vegetables to updating their garden landscapes, as well as adding greenery inside their homes with indoor plants," Bunnings national greenlife buyer Alex Newman said.

Dominic and Malin Hooghuis with kids Atlas, 5 (stripes) and Zeppy, 7 who has created his own backyard garden. Picture: Tim Carrafa.
Dominic and Malin Hooghuis with kids Atlas, 5 (stripes) and Zeppy, 7 who has created his own backyard garden. Picture: Tim Carrafa.

Families who have been using lockdown to weed, mow and seed have found it both relaxing and energising - which makes for a better mood, longer concentration and more productivity, according to the Plant Life Balance science report.

Being outdoors can also help households deal with stress and eases concerns over food security as growing herbs and vegetables can save money and increase healthy eating.

Horticulturist and dad-of-two Dominic Hooghuis said creating a backyard garden and watching seeds sprout is buoying his family's spirits.

"These days it's easy for kids to be distracted by technology, so it's important to show them just how fun gardening can be from an early age," he said.

"Now that we're staying at home a lot more, gardening is a great stress release for the entire family and it improves our moods and relieves the cabin fever."

Families that garden together enjoy a range of long lasting benefits. istock.
Families that garden together enjoy a range of long lasting benefits. istock.

As co-founder of The Plant Runner, Mr Hooghuis believes his family's small suburban garden of plants, herbs and vegetables has taught his sons Atlas, 5, and Zeppy, 7, an understanding of where food comes from and a deep respect for nature.

"We recently planted a gorgeous orange tree which is espaliered (grown flat against a structure) to save space. Our boys love that they can pick fruit from a tree on their back deck," he said.

"It's a peaceful place with many health benefits and I wanted to create that for my family."

Professor Tonia Gray, plant life balance advocate and senior researcher in the Centre for Educational Research at Western Sydney University, said nature is a soul food and healer for many households.

Teaching your kids to grow their own food is a fun way to educate them about healthy eating and to introduce them to the wonders of nature, including worm farms. istock.
Teaching your kids to grow their own food is a fun way to educate them about healthy eating and to introduce them to the wonders of nature, including worm farms. istock.

"It is a cumulative effect such as boosting children's creativity, learning and healthy development," she said.

"Time in nature is restorative, it increases mental alertness (acuity), reduces stress levels, fosters a sense of calmness and tranquillity, bolsters creativity, improves immune function and enhances physical fitness.

"When children play and learn outdoors, they are calmer, confident and more open to learning. They show improvements in social skills, imagination, teamwork, concentration and behaviour."

Since the pandemic, parents turned to gardening as an outdoor activity to do with their children stuck at home after schools shut. And with the upcoming school holidays, it's a great opportunity for the kids to grow a green thumb.

Experts say gardening is a mood booster that reduces boredom, engenders a sense of accomplishment and helps keep mind and body in tip top condition.

 

BUILD A CHILD-FRIENDLY GARDEN

Keep it natural: Use your imagination and create simple play areas out of natural materials, such as tree stumps, which would make a great obstacle course or seating area. Alternatively, place stepping stones across a lawn, and paint or decorate them.

Allocate storage: Easy-access storage areas can hide and keep clutter out of the rain. You could add space under your deck or buy outdoor storage boxes.

Make tracks: A hard surface is essential for kids to ride bikes, scooters and skateboards.

Let them pick: Allow your kids to choose what they'd like to grow. Plants with large seeds, such as beans and sunflowers are easiest for small hands to sow.

Consider herbs: Most culinary herbs are good choices.

 

Originally published as Best way to build a child friendly garden


Over 65? What you can do in Noosa to shake ageing process

premium_icon Over 65? What you can do in Noosa to shake ageing process

One way to stay healthy as you age in Noosa thanks to council support.

‘Died doing his hobby:’ Brother mourns shark attack victim

premium_icon ‘Died doing his hobby:’ Brother mourns shark attack victim

"...there's nothing I would change that happened in the water that day."

Resort reopens early as AFL team enjoys Coast lockdown

premium_icon Resort reopens early as AFL team enjoys Coast lockdown

St Kilda Saints land on the Coast for exclusive stay at Noosa resort