Photo by L Greenwood

Somehow knowing that autumn has arrived and that winter is not far behind, I’ve been spurred into action to get some bulbs planted in time for spring flowers.  So for the past two weekends we’ve been spending some time gardening.

Autumn Planting

It didn’t take much to get our toddler involved and in no time at all he was digging away and watering the bed in preparation for planting.  We chatted about the ants scrambling over the soil, the squirmy pink earthworms we dug up unintentionally and even about the bees buzzing around while we worked, how the earth feels between your fingers, the crunchiness of the autumn leaves and feeling the wind blowing through our hair.

I had to really resist the urge to get upset when, instead of patting down the soil around the seedlings, he smacked down the trowel on top of them.  A few of the seedlings have never recovered, but a worthwhile sacrifice I think in getting Aaron interested in gardening.


Aaron had so much fun, which was quite evident from his dirt smeared face by the end of it all.  At one stage we found an eggshell.  I could have said ‘gently’ until I was blue in the face.  Aaron delighted in scrunching it up between his chubby palms.


The next morning I was surprised to find that the Pansies, with their happy little faces, were still smiling up at me, as we seem to be the all night restaurant for the slugs in our neighbourhood.  I don’t have the heart to use slug pellets and with all the toddlers in our area it seemed organic gardening was the way to go,  so I was just hoping for the best.  So far, so good!

I feel it is important to get toddlers involved in these types of activities, as:

  • they learn about nature, the seasons and how things grow
  • they learn patience and will begin to understand that immediate satisfaction is not always necessary
  • they learn to understand that by nurturing something they can make something blossom
  • they gain confidence in knowing that they have helped plant and take care of something
  • they learn about loss, that not every seedling survives
  • a deeper bond is created between you and your child when spending time together on projects
  • they can see that it is okay to get your hands dirty, as long as you wash them afterwards!

BBC have a lovely site with fun gardening things to do with kids.  Check it out at Gardening with Children.

Below are some general rules and safety for gardening with youngsters:

Throughout their growing years children are learning the rules of life. This applies just as much to gardening as to any other activity.

Some Commonsense Rules

  1. Don’t touch someone else’s garden unless you have their permission.
  2. Never eat anything in the garden unless you know it is okay.
  3. Ask before you pick flowers.
  4. Wear sunscreen and a hat as a routine when you are outside in the garden.
  5. Wear gloves when handling soil or potting mix, when moving anything rough or sharp or working where spiders may lurk.
  6. Wear boots or solid footwear.
  7. Always check inside boots before putting them on, especially if they have been stored outdoors.
  8. Garden in suitable old clothes.
  9. Wash hands well after handling potting mix, soil or compost.

Beware of Poisonous Plants

Some common garden plants are poisonous and their planting should, if possible, be avoided in kids’ gardens. This list is by no means exhaustive, but the inclusion of so many commonly grown plants serves to reinforce how important it is that children are taught never to eat anything in the garden unless they know it is safe. All parts of the following plants are poisonous:

  • Agapanthus
  • Caladium – coloured-leaf indoor plant
  • Brugmansia – angel’s trumpet
  • Delphiniums
  • Foxgloves
  • Helleborus species – also known as Christmas roses
  • Lily of the valley
  • Lobelia
  • Rhododendrons and azaleas
  • Thevetia peruviana – known as yellow oleander or be-still tree

The leaves of the following plants are poisonous:

  • Box (Buxus spp)
  • Calendula
  • Elephant’s ears
  • Rhubarb
  • Tomato

The flowers of the arum lily are poisonous.

The milky sap of the following is poisonous:

  • Frangipani
  • Oleander
  • Poinsettia

The fruits and seeds of the following are poisonous:

  • Cestrum nocturnum – night-scented jessamine
  • Clivias
  • Cycads
  • Duranta – pigeon berry
  • Laburnum
  • Melia azederach – white cedar
  • Moreton Bay chestnut – black bean
  • Peppercorn tree
  • Privet
  • Sweet peas
  • Wisteria
  • Yew

These tubers and bulbs are poisonous:

  • Daffodils
  • Gloriosa lily
  • Hyacinth bulbs

What to do in the event of poisoning

Call emergency services

You can review our First Aid section which provides a basic overview of First Aid procedures.

This information has been kindly supplied by Yates Australia. For more comprehensive information on gardening, water conservation and much more visit the Yates website or you can join the Yates Garden Club for free advice, competitions and promotions.