Family Gardens

Family Gardens

Many gardens have to be used by a variety of age groups, and a family garden should be agreeable to everyone using it, whatever their age. Decide on a list of priorities and plan your garden accordingly. It's possible to design your garden so that it evolves with the changing needs of you and your family. If you get the major areas right, garden features and planting can be altered as your circumstances change, or as time and money become more available.


Include all the features and areas that you want in your garden. Patios are dry places for play even in winter - make yours large enough to be useful for everyone. Materials can be upgraded later. If you have space, a paved path circuit around your garden is a great all-weather track for trikes, bikes and cars.


Leave as large as possible space for ball games and play. Site your greenhouse away from here, or add a greenhouse at a later stage when more time is available to use them.


Children love secret places and small areas where dens can be made. However, in smaller gardens a simple open area can be the only way to have plenty of room for ball games. If you have the space, use lawn shapes to create quiet corners and bays that can be used for play. Leave spaces for tents and makeshift dens to be made.

Multi Purpose Items

Using things for more than one function is important in small gardens. Stout, mature tree branches are good hangers for rope ladders, scrambling nets and hammocks. Make garden arches that double as a swing frame - you can buy swings to hook on and off when not in use. Make football goals that are plant supports or washing line posts. Design some outdoor storage for toys, such as timber bench seats with cupboards underneath. Barbecues areas can also make useful storage. Sandpits should be covered and include stowage areas.

Water, Sand and Soft Surfaces

If you have inherited a pool and safety is a concern, install a metal grid just below the surface of the water or fence it off. When planning a new garden, make water features child safe, with no standing water. Make a narrow, shallow channel of water which can be drained when not in use for splashing and small boat sailing - this can be turned into a rill and left full later.

Sand pits that are excavated can be turned into ponds at a later stage. Use split bamboo (available on a roll) as a cover for sand.

Play surfaces are expensive and may require specialist installation. Bark can be used around climbing frames, but may need containing.

Children's Gardens

Make a children's garden - set aside a small plot for plant growing. Grow fast favourites such as runner beans, radishes, nasturtiums, sweet peas and experimental giants such as sunflowers and pumpkins. As children get older or lose interest incorporate area back into your own garden.


Encourage plenty of wildlife through planting and providing the right homes. Fence off wildlife ponds while children are still young or leave making until later. Leave this grass longer and mow paths through it.

Planting Tips

  • Choose an all purpose seed mix for your lawn which will stand up to wear and tear. Areas that get scuffed and scraped can be protected by installing Netlon turf guard mesh just below the lawn surface fro the grass to grow through. Cut grass to a summer length of about 3 - 5 cm.
  • Use resilient plants, and avoid fighting a losing battle trying to keep children off your borders. Choose a good backbone of shrubs that don't require a huge amount of pruning to perform well. Select plants that don't have a reputation for being brittle or difficult to cultivate, and avoid plants which can cause irritation to skin on contact or have poisonous berries.
  • Make jungles and dens - use fast growing plants for creating thickets: Buddleja davidii, Cornus, mallow (Lavatera), tall bamboos, Kerria japonica. Grow vigorous climbers over cane wigwams fro instant green dens - runner beans, golden hop, mile a minute - (but beware extreme rampant growth), Clematis montana, Vitis coignetiae.