Ex-Blue Peter gardener Chris Collins offers three fun ideas
to keep the kids amused in the garden during lockdown.

Children are being invited to get creative with little gardening
projects, courtesy of former Blue Peter gardener Chris Collins.

It could be making a ‘Pizza Wheel’ where they grow their own ingredients
for a pizza topping, nurturing a ‘Cress Caterpillar’ made from an egg
carton, or making a ‘Butterfly Pie’ to attract beautiful butterflies.

“Start simple and quick-growing,” says Collins, head of organic
horticulture at the charity Garden Organic (

“Pea-shoots, cress or lettuce leaves are perfect starting places for
impatient minds. Shoots will appear in just a matter of days, with only
a short wait before you have something to eat,” he explains. “Identify
colours, draw flowers, count seeds, and encourage home cooking using the
produce grown.”

Here are three projects to keep the little ones amused, plus tips for
getting kids interested in organic growing…

  1. Pizza wheel

What you’ll need: String; 2 bamboo sticks; pebbles, shingle or sand; 4-6
types of seed to suit a pizza topping.

How to make it:

Fork over a bit of ground and rake. You can either do this in a raised
bed or a large pot. Next you’ll need to mark out a circle using the
string and two bits of bamboo. This circle will be the base for your
pizza, which can then be divided into pizza slices using pebbles,
shingle or sand.

Once you have your sections, you can sow four to six types of seed or
plant plugs into each one to make toppings suitable for a scrummy pizza.
Seeds could include basil, tomato, sweet peppers and rocket – whatever
your children like on a pizza. Look after your pizza wheel and watch it

“Learning about where their food comes from, how it is grown and looked
after and the importance of insects to the food chain are great life
lessons for children,” adds Collins.

  1. Cress caterpillar

What you’ll need: Cress seeds; cotton wool or organic compost; egg box;
scissors; paint and paint brush; googly eyes and pipe cleaners.

How to make it:

First, cut the lid away from your egg box and cut through the middle so
you have three sections to plant your seeds in. Decorate your box by
painting it, adding a face for your caterpillar, along with googly eyes
and pipe cleaner antennae.

Once dry, pop a cotton wool ball in each section. Water the cotton wool
and sprinkle liberally with cress seeds. Keep moist and you should see
sprouts within a few days, and be able to chop it and eat it within a
couple of weeks.

  1. Butterfly pie

What you’ll need: Bin liner or pot; sugar (white or brown); water;
partially rotted plums or similar fruit; small trowel or spade.

How to make it:

Dig a small hole in a border or pot, about 30cm wide by 15cm deep.
Create a ridge around the hole and line it with a piece of bin liner and
pierce with just a few holes. Next, dissolve some sugar in water and add
some partially rotted plums or similar fruit.

Mix the ingredients together and add to the soil from the hole. Pop the
final mixture in the hole or pot and your Butterfly Pie is complete.
Soon you’ll see various butterfly visitors.

Teach organic

Try to teach organic gardening too, Collins stresses. “As parents we
don’t want our children eating things sprayed with chemicals, or soil
with artificial fertiliser on, so it is really important to teach them
organic methods.

“Children also love seeing and interacting with caterpillars and
ladybirds. If you have sprayed your garden with pesticides they will be
hard pressed to find these fascinating creatures.”

Parents shouldn’t interfere too much either, he suggests. “Give them
responsibility for their own space. That could be part of the garden, a
pot on a balcony or patio, a hanging basket, or a container on the
window ledge. If they look after it every day, they’ll see the plants
shoot, flower and fruit before their eyes.”

He continues: “Children love putting their hands in the soil and getting
them dirty. Getting them outdoors and involved with nature is a natural
thing for them to do, and a great learning experience.

“It will also get them outdoors and active. Gardening can have a
positive effect in so many different ways.”