Taking extra time to create features just for Little Gardeners will offer more opportunities for them to connect with your garden. Harness the affection children have for building and playing in forts by including them in the construction of special garden structures.

Helpful Hint: Create a Garden Supply Box for Little Gardener

Include: safety scissors, seeds, a trowel, a ruler, laminated garden map and dry erase marker, popsicle sticks (and a permanent, fade-resistant marker—if you wish) for labelling plantings, and garden gloves.


Trellises: Places for Plants to Climb

A trellis is anything that a plant climbs or uses for support and some plants must have a trellis in order to grow properly. You can build a simple trellis by getting creative with materials that you may have lying around. For example, you can tie off lengths of twine between two or more posts you’ve set in the ground, creating a string “wall” for plants to climb, or create a tepee trellis. A friend of mine grows gourds and other climbing plants on a huge tunnel trellis. It’s made from “hooped” panels of metal fencing— even an adult can walk through or relax in it.

Activity: Build A Tepee Trellis  

Tepee trellises are my favourite kind of trellises to create and are an eye-catching garden feature. Plants can climb the trellis and it can serve as a special place for Little Gardeners.

You will need:

  • Three or more 6-7 foot-tall wooden stakes (avoid smooth ones which will allow the twine to slip).
  • Twine
  • Scissors
  • Step Stool
  • Sledge hammer (to help set posts)
  1. Push three or more wooden stakes into the soil so they lean toward each other in a triangle or circle formation and tie them together near the top.
  2. Walk around the tepee (avoid compacting the soil) and wrap twine around each stake, creating a “wall” of twine “levels” each three to four inches apart. This will allow climbing vines to form walls around the tepee. Be sure to leave one section “untwined” to serve as an entrance for Little Gardener.
  3. Ensure that the lowest level of twine is no more than three to four inches above the soil so that plants can easily find it.
  4. Pole beans (natural climbers) and nasturtium (which can be trained to climb) are great candidates for being planted under a tepee trellis. Come summer, Little Gardener will be able to pick and snack on fresh beans and nasturtium flowers and leaves from the comfortable shade of their secret spot.

Signs Are Special Too

Don’t underestimate the power and joy of good signage. Simple signs like “Baird Family Garden” or “Nate’s Secret Garden Spot” reinforce your relationship with the garden and encourage stewardship of the space. Signs with the names and pictures of what’s growing will help Little Gardener (and perhaps Big Gardener too) remember where everything is planted, learn to identify plants, and be better able to see and interpret interactions between members of the garden ecosystem. And, of course, painting signs will be a fun project for Little Gardener!

Boosting Your Garden’s Wow Factor

Incorporating unexpected human objects into your garden space can create a striking contrast between human systems and natural ones. By repurposing an old wooden ladder as a trellis, a retired rubber boot as a planting container, or a bathtub as a place to play, you can turn a run-of-the-mill vegetable garden into a magical place for Little Gardeners.

Edited excerpt from The Little Gardener by Julie A Cerny out now. (Princeton Architectural Press, £18.99) Illustrations by Ysemay Dercon

Nadia Duncan

Author: Nadia Duncan


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