When designing or creating a garden many things are considered. One of the most important factors are the needs and wishes of the family as a whole…Mum, dad, the kids and the pets. As our lives get busier and people look for places to retreat and relax in, the garden can become a great place to have fun and bring the whole family together.


Whether your garden is big or small there are plenty of things you can create to make the most of your space. Having a functional area for dining and entertaining is important as it brings friends and family together. It is great especially in the warm summer months. Having places for kids to run about and safely explore nature is important. Fresh air and exercise around the garden is good for everyone. Kids, pets and some adults love getting outdoors to enjoy the sunshine and experience simple activities like kicking a ball around. If you can allocate some space for a level lawn area. There are some robust lawns that can be grown to handle high traffic areas such as Rye If you have a large property with some natural bush, why not create your own nature trail with informal steps and pathways. Lights and garden art can add interest and focal points along the way.


Grow your own herbs and vege’s: Now these do not need to be hard work or complicated nor large scale to create. There are a lot of vegetables and herbs that can be easily grown in containers, pots or in small garden plots. Potatoes, tomatoes, beans, strawberries, onions, salad greens, parsley and basil are all very simple to grow. If you are limited for space , vegetables can be grown amongst flowers. So why not make your garden creative as well as edible. Kids love to help out by weeding or picking fresh lettuce for a healthy salad for lunch or dinner.

Watch your plants grow: Growing your plants from seed is a very rewarding experience. Seedlings can be raised in trays, containers or directly into the ground.. To lessen setbacks, harden seedlings to sunlight gradually before they are planted into the garden. A good idea is to cover with glass to maintain an even moisture and temperature and place in a warm position until seeds germinate. As soon as the first leaves remove the cover and allow the plants light and ventilation. The young plants will be ready for transplanting into the garden 3 – 4 weeks of planting the seed. Seedlings should go into the soil with as little root disturbance as possible. Plant out on a dull day or evening if possible and gently water them in.

Some great flowers and herbs to grow from seed:

  • Sunflowers
  • Poppies
  • Sweet pea
  • Cosmos
  • Pansies
  • Basil
  • Coriander
  • Thyme
  • Chives
  • Parsley

Planting bulbs in pots: Late Summer /Autumn you can be planting bulbs. They are one of nature’s most intriguing creations. They grow, bloom and die back in a matter of months, and then reappear just when had forgotten about them.

If you are a newcomer to growing bulbs some of the easiest to start with are Daffodils and Tulips. Almost all bulbs do well in pots They are not overly fussy about the type of soil as long as the soil is very well drained. Use a quality potting mix and make sure that the pots chosen have large drainage holes In general, bulbs should be planted so that its top is two to three times the length of the bulb away from the surface. Water the bulbs and place them in a shady position for 4-5 weeks. When the first shoots appear place the pot in full sun and wait for the gorgeous display of flowers to appear.

Discover bulbs at Taupaki bulbs

Build you own garden hideaway: Believe it or not but some kids don’t like to hang around you feet all day. You can give yourself some piece and quiet and give your kids a place to hangout. Garden huts or tree house’s can be as rustic or fancy as you wish. Utilize an established strong, old tree to build a tree house in. Or clear a spot amongst the garden to build a garden hut or play house Climbing ropes, ladders and swings can be added for interactive, challenging outdoor fun. Recycled building materials and a hearty dose of Kiwi ingenuity go a long way for those DIY fanatics, other wise there are companies out there who specialize in building child friendly play houses. Please note, every council has some rules about children’s play equipment, so check out what you can and can’t build first. Tree huts and play houses are important for kids as they provide endless hours of fun and creativity.


Mosaics are a picture or other design constructed from smaller pieces of broken tiles, glass, shells, stones, crockery or other materials. There are some basic techniques and some wonderful things you create such as colourful pots for plants, creative inserts for your pathway, or wall plaques for your garden shed or courtyard wall. This is a great way to recycle old material and have some fun together as a family.


Kids and adults alike love the sound of water; to hear and play with water in the garden is a great way to pass the time. Water features, spa’s, ponds and swimming pools add a dynamic feature to any space, however you do need to be mindful of a few things.

Swimming pools and Spa’s

Every council has set guidelines. Basically you must comply with the Fencing and Swimming Pools Act 1987. This act exists to protect young children from the dangers of unfenced swimming pools. Thus requiring owners to fence their pools. Please check with your local council for swimming pool regulations. Paddling pools that you can fill up and splash about in on your lawn does not require a fence, however you will need to be extra vigilant and watch children at all times.

For more information on Swimming Pool regulations use

Find: Swimming pool design and build , Pool Fencing ,

Water features and ponds

If you are considering putting in a water feature or perhaps a fishpond and you have small children, you will need to consider the following.

  • Young children can drown in only a few millimeters of water.
  • Always watch you children around ponds, pools and water features.
  • Consider keeping the depth of the pond as safe as possible. Councils require you keep the pond depth at a certain depth. Anything deeper than and it will require fencing around it.

Water slides:

If you a big grassy slope and plenty of water, water slides can give you hours of fun on a hot summers day. A simple piece of polythene or plastic can do the trick. Be warned though, it’s a quick way to muck up your lawn.


The catch cry for today’s gardens is ‘low maintenance’. There are a multitude of plants and planting themes that fit within this category and that is another column all together. The most important thing to consider when children playing in the garden, is that they need to be kept safe. There are some poisonous plants in New Zealand that can harm and even kill. So, before you go putting just any old plant anywhere, even if it has pretty flowers, get to know and identify those plants that are not recommended for the garden. The following are some to watch for; Please note these are not the comprehensive list. Please visit for more information.

Internal poisons (harmful if swallowed)

  • Angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia candida) – North Island and warmest parts of the South Island.
  • Arums and arum lily (Arum species and Zantedeschia aethiopica)
  • Bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara) – mainly South Island and lower North Island.
  • Castor oil (Ricinus communis)
  • Fox glove (Digitalis pupurea)
  • Hemlock (Conium maculatum)
  • Jerusalem cherry (Solarnum diflorum and S. pseudocapsicum)
  • Laburnum (Laburnum anagryoides) – mainly South Island and southern half of North Island.
  • Lantana (Lantana camara) – warmer parts of North Island and Northrn ares of South Island.
  • Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) – mainly south Island
  • Monkshood (Aconitum napellus) – mainly South Island an colder parts of North Island
  • Oleander (Nerium oleander)
  • Persian lilac or white cedar (Melia azederach) – mainly North Island
  • Potato (Solanum tuberosum) – all green parts
  • Privet species (Ligustrum species)
  • Queen of the night (Cestrum nocturnum) – mainly northern North Island
  • Spindle tree and Japanses spindle tree (Euonymus europaeus and E. japonicus) – latter mainly fruiting in the North Island
  • Tutu (Coriaria species)
  • Yew (Taxus baccata) – although nearly all parts of both sexes are poisonous, only the berry of the female tree, with its poisonous seed is likely to be eaten.
  • Cotoneasters (Cotoneaster species)

External poisons (harmful if touched)

  • Stinging nettles (Urtia species)
  • Wax tree or Japanese wax tree (Rhus succedanea) – mainly North Island and northern South Island.For more information about poisionious plants and resources try Landcare Research

    So, get yourself and your kids out into the garden and create a safe, fun place for you all to enjoy.

    Sandra Batley Dip LD

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