Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Greenhouse Growing Projects Your Grandchildren Will Love This Summer


Growing with children in a Hartley Botanic Highgrow Greenhouse

You may be sharing the load when it comes to looking after young grandchildren this summer, and with at least three weeks left to fill, Hartley Botanic has shared some Greenhouse growing ideas and inspiration to both keep them entertained and instill a love of gardening that could last a lifetime.

There’s been a lot of science over the past few years claiming to show how houseplants benefit health and well-being. Caring for a plant can lead, among other pluses, to a reduction in stress and improved cognitive awareness. Nurturing another living thing also boosts a sense of self-esteem, especially in children, and is a way to connect with nature where other opportunities are in short supply.

Tips for gardening with children

A child and her dog in front of a Hartley Botanic Victorian Classic Greenhouse in Cheshire, UK
  • The key to gardening with children is to show them how to do it, then let them do it. Keep your explanations as simple as possible.
  • The grown-up gardener is there for information and guidance, but when that first tomato appears on the family dinner table, the child should be able to brag that they grew it. And you grew a new gardener!
  • Involve everyone in the planning stages—and listen to what children want.
  • Make some areas active and devote some places to quiet.
  • Give children simple projects, such as planting large seeds; encourage children to check on their growth.
  • Share space in your Greenhouse for children’s creativity — it’s not always about garden work. It’s also about fun.
  • Starting a little area of their own within your Greenhouse can feel very special for children. And as they come back and care for their plants, they will have a goal to work towards and learn about what plants need.

What to do now…

Choosing what to grow outside a Hartley Botanic Highgrow Greenhouse, Lancashire, UK


If your Greenhouse is overflowing with an abundance of edibles during the summer months, invite your grandchildren to help you harvest. Peppers, aubergines, tomato and chilli plants may all be heavy with fruit and lovely for children to pick and then eat – learning first-hand where their food comes from. If you have been growing cherry tomatoes, they will be able to eat them straight from the plant.

Make it an experience by keeping the door of your Greenhouse shut overnight so the Greenhouse is filled with the sweet smell of tomatoes when your grandchildren arrive. And here are some ideas to help bring the harvest alive for children…

  • Ask them to weigh or measure the vegetables that have grown
  • How many cucumbers measure up to the same height as them?
  • What differences do they notice when they cut a pepper open compared to a tomato?
  • Why not use the harvest to inspire a drawing that they could use for the village show in September?


With watering being on the to do list both at the start and end of your day, now is a good opportunity to involve your grandchildren and talk about its value. With water in short supply, ‘Grey water’ recycled from baths and washbasins can be used if you only use a small amount of detergent but not on edible crops. Talk about any hosepipe bans that might be in place in your area so children learn that water is a finite resource rather than something which just flows automatically from the tap.

What to grow now…

The plants you choose to grow is worth thinking about in advance. Some crops bring results more quickly than others, which can help satiate children’s natural impatience (although patience is an excellent life lesson imparted by the growing process too.) Growing fruit and vegetables are also a clever way to educate children that food doesn’t start its life in the supermarket, and it can help encourage healthy eating.

Here are some ideas…


Often the most rewarding Greenhouse will be one you’ve filled with plants you’ve grown from seed. It’s that personal connection, you’ve known them at each stage, rather like your own children. And when gardening in the Greenhouse with your grandchildren, growing plants from seeds in the fruit they have eaten will provide them with a tremendous appreciation for nature. Growing from seed is also one of the most satisfying and cost-effective ways grow plants. The best first plants for children are things they can eat. Choose vegetables that will sprout and grow from seed right where the child plants them, and that don’t have to go through a flowering-and-fruiting process. Choose edible roots, such as radishes or carrots, or leaves, such as lettuce or spinach.

Growing with children in a Hartley Botanic Highgrow Greenhouse


Peanuts have an unusual habit that make them especially interesting to children. As the flowers fade, their stems elongate and arch over, pushing their seed-pods into the soil where they swell and ripen. It’s really quite captivating to observe this as it happens over a few days. Don’t use salted peanuts, buy them fresh from the health food shop. If you grow them in a glass container, like a fish tank, you can see the roots and ripening seeds in the compost. Keep them warm and moist and water with warm water.


Basil is a fast-growing herb that grows very well in pots in a sunny, sheltered spot in the Greenhouse. Grow your plants in 13cm pots and water regularly. Basil has become enormously popular for adding to pizzas and pesto and is a great way for your grandchildren to consume the herb they had a hand at growing.


Delicate-looking and fast growing coriander is ideal for pot-growing with grandchildren. Sow them with your grandchildren now, and they should be ready for harvest in early autumn. The seeds can be sown directly into the container in which they are to grow, but it will be easier to take care of in the early stages if sown into cell trays and planted once well established. Feed three weeks after potting using a liquid fertiliser and at 10-14 day intervals until the seeds start to ripen and make sure their compost doesn’t dry out during the summer months.


Sow French beans in 5″ pots of peat-free multipurpose compost. They will germinate quickly in the Greenhouse, and you will get a late crop in early September. Cover with more compost, water well and place in a propagator or on a warm windowsill in the Greenhouse. It takes 7-10 days for the seedlings to emerge.


If you sowed your first seeds in a propagator in late February, they should be well on their way to flowering and maturity/harvesting. Your grandchildren can now break off the side shoots where the leaves join the main stem with their finger and thumb so the tomato plant grows straight and tall. Put the side shoots in a glass of water and watch the roots grow. Plant them in pots and you will get a small harvest before autumn.  Go into the Greenhouse and tap the open flowers, to help the bees make tomatoes.

Fun ideas in the garden

  • Plan a scavenger hunt around the garden: Create an engaging scavenger hunt around the garden with tasks for your grandchildren to accomplish. Some examples of things they can search for include a flower bud, leaves longer than their fingers, a plant the colour of their shirts and more. Snap photos along the way and add them to their garden journal to extend the learning once you’re back inside.
  • Create a garden journal: Let your grandchildren pick out a notebook to record what they do in the garden each time they visit. Encourage them to draw pictures of the plants as they are growing in order to track their growth.

Hartley Botanic Greenhouse owner Nigel Metcalfe shares how his love of Greenhouse growing has been a family affair

Since helping his grandfather Sydney in his Greenhouse, Nigel Metcalfe, 66 from Whitstable in Kent, had always dreamt that one day he would be able to buy his own. In 2018, when he retired, Nigel and his wife Alison bought a Hartley Botanic Victorian Grand Lodge, with an intricate and ornate Canopy & Pergola addition. As well as filling their table with delicious fresh vegetables and fueling their own gardening pleasure, the Greenhouse has also meant quality time with their grandchildren;

“I have two grandchildren and they love growing with me in the Greenhouse and are particularly interested in fast-growing edibles like beans. They also really enjoy picking tomatoes and cutting cucumbers with me. It is tremendous to pass on the joy of growing to them, especially as that is what my grandfather did for me.”

Greenhouse memories to last a lifetime

There is something magical about growing under the cover of a beautiful Greenhouse filled with all manner of plants and accessories. For children, a Greenhouse can be a treasure trove of new things to learn about, look at and explore. Whether that’s different kinds of plants at various growing stages neatly and orderly arranged on levels of staging, what you’re doing on the potting shoe, or the sound of the radio and the pattering rain overhead – it can be a powerful way to build unique and lasting memories.

And you never know, your grandchildren may very well inherit your Hartley Botanic. In a throwaway age Hartley Botanic makes Greenhouses and Glasshouses which truly stand the test of time and, as such, often become heirlooms for generations of families. Hartley Botanic are regularly contacted by customers who have decades-old Greenhouses which are still providing excellent service – including those that have been dismantled and reinstalled. The company offers a 30-year lifetime guarantee covering both the structure and installation of its Greenhouses and Glasshouses (subject to terms and conditions: Our Lifetime guarantee – Hartley Botanic (hartley-botanic.co.uk).)

A customer’s 1950s V&N Hartley Ltd Semi-Dodecagon 9 Greenhouse in full working order and showcased at the RHS Hampton Court Garden Festival last year