Combining Play With Plants
Research shows that children and adults benefit mentally and physically from being in a natural environment. So although it's tempting to buy a plastic swingset and set it in the center of the lawn, it may not be as beneficial for your children in the long run as, say, play areas with plants that children will enjoy, such as cheerful sunflowers and those that attract butterflies.
As children's interests change, prevent boredom setting in by providing toys that aren't permanent fixtures and will seem new and exciting time after time. This sandbox is made from a timber raised bed, which you can buy as a kit or make yourself. When children outgrow the sand, fill the bed with colorful sunflowers, edible flowers, such as nasturtiums, and quick-growing vegetables.
Growing fruit and vegetables allows children to take a real interest in gardening; sowing seeds and watching their plants grow gives young ones a real sense of achievement. Plastic sandboxes often languish unloved once the novelty has worn off, but one made from a raised bed can be converted into a small vegetable plot, the perfect size for little hands to tend their first crops.
Top Tip: Simple Sewings
You can make a simple swing from a thick rope attached securely to a sturdy tree branch. Tie an old tire to it to make a traditional swing, checking that it will hold your child by swinging on it yourself first. Alternatively, knot the rope at intervals for children to climb up. Adult supervision is always advisable when small children are using any type of play equipment.
Small children can drown in just a few inches of water, so wait until yours are old enough to appreciate the dangers before installing a water feature. If you have older children with younger siblings, fit a custom-made metal grill over the water surface and ensure it will take the weight of a child, should he or she fall.
Wrap planting around your pond to create shelter for wildlife, such as birds, frogs and toads.
As soon as your pond is installed, birds and small animals will visit to drink and bathe, and many other creatures will become permanent residents. Make sure the sides are sloped so they can get out if they fall in, and plant around the sides to provide them with cover and habitats. Frogs and toads will be drawn to any pond, large or small, and in spring will fill the water with spawn. Other creatures to look out for include water beetles, pond skaters, water snails, newts, damselflies and dragonflies.
Plots for Pets
Sharing your garden with pets can be a fun and fulfilling experience, and by catering for their needs, as well as your own, you can all live happily together in the same plot.
Dogs that have free reign of the garden can present problems if they aren't trained. Set aside a quiet area, such as behind a shed, for your dog to use as a toilet. After a few weeks, and treats for good behavior, he or she will only go there. Raised beds and borders edged with low hedging will also help deter your dog from rampaging through your favorite flowers.
Cats aren't as easily trained as dogs, especially in their toilet habits. Encourage them to use a litter box, and deter them from using the borders by inserting short pieces of cane or stakes in the areas where they are likely to scratch. Cats like bare soil and mulch, so these are the areas to concentrate on.
Cats adore the scent of catmint (Nepeta) and love to roll around in it. Give your pet a treat and set aside a bed for this pretty plant.