7. Tending the garden

7. Tending the garden

Suggested timing: April

Tending a garden involves the active and ongoing process of observing plants as they grow, and maintaining the garden in the appropriate conditions.

Short film: Tending to the Garden


By the end of this unit, you will enable children to: 

  1. Observe and record the growth of the plants 
  2. Establish a watering and weeding routine 
  3. Measure and draw stems, leaves, branches 
  4. Describe and communicate observations about leaf colour, shape, size, presence of flowers 
  5. Recognise signs of hampered growth 
  6. Take responsibility for rubbish, debris, and pests 

1. Checking on the growing plants

Successful growing of food in planters, or confined spaces like gardens, is dependent on having adequate space both above and underneath the ground to enable healthy growth. Ongoing observations of seedlings as they grow is important, to check if these conditions are being met.

Activity 1A: Monitoring seedlings

In the garden, children can make close observations of the growing space:

  • What are the general conditions of the seedlings?
  • Are there broken stems or squashed plants? If yes, who or what may be responsible?
  • What protective measures can be put in place?

A classroom discussion can focus on how the garden may be protected from, for example, vandalism, unwelcome visits from cats and dogs, accidental damage, or the feasting of snails.

Activity 1B: Comparing seedling growth within a plant type

Further observations may involve making comparisons between plants of the same kind:

  • Do they all grow in the same way?
  • What is their colour?
  • What are the soil conditions like - wet, too wet, or too dry?

A watering routine will need to be established. In some cases, plants may be growing too close to each other and will be competing for light. If that happens, seedlings may be gently uprooted and replanted further apart.

Useful resources

2. Observing and measuring growth

Plant growth can be observed and measured both in numbers and with verbal and drawn descriptions. Through measurements, children can appreciate that similar plants may display different growth rates, that is, the height and length of the stems over time.

Through verbal descriptions, children can pay attention to the appearance of the plant - does it look healthy? What does healthy mean? Features observed may include:

  • Strength of the leaves and stems - a healthy plant will have sufficient water content to ensure all green parts are strong and turgid
  • Colour - discoloration of the leaves may indicate a lack of nutrients in the soil
  • Presence (or not) of parasites.
Activity 2A: Garden journaling

A garden journal with simple tick boxes can be developed to record observations over time. Simple sketches can also be added to enhance observations.

Useful resources

3. Weed watch!

The garden space is inhabited by many living things. Some may be occasional visitors like cats or dogs for example, who may leave traces! Cat poo may need to be regularly removed from the growing space.

The soil will also attract other plants which had not been intended to grow in the garden, such as weeds. The term ‘weed’ is often used negatively to refer to unwanted plants in the growing space – this is mostly because they compete with the crops for water, light, and soil space. However, weeds are an important source of food for insects and particularly pollinators (such as bees).

Activity 3A: What is a weed?

In discussion, the children can learn to recognise what weeds are, why they are called ‘weeds,’ and what roles they play in the garden.

Activity 3B: Establishing a weeding routine

Working in groups, children can take responsibility for specific sections of the garden; decide how much and where weeds may be left to grow while ensuring they are regularly removed from the growing space.

Useful resources

You have reached the end of this unit. To assess your knowledge before starting the next unit, please complete the short quiz found at the link below.

Please note: you will have to enter your email address at the start of each unit quiz if you wish to be sent a Garden Schools Certificate of Completion once you have worked through all 8 units and quizzes.

Complete the Tending to the Garden short quiz