Encourage youngsters to get creative in the garden before school starts again

First, ask yourself what children want from a garden of their own. Set aside any preconceived notions. They need creative freedom and quick results. So start by marking off a special area. A patch about three feet square is probably big enough for each child. Provide some materials such as tiles, pebbles, gravel, flower pots, odd lengths of timber, clear or black plastic and old kitchen bowls and dishes. You may have to raid the shed, garage and loft.

Make a few suggestions for getting started and leave them to it. Avoid the temptation to supervise too much.

Their first task might be to lay out paths, paving and beds with bits of trellis or rustic fencing woven from twigs collected round the garden.

Mosaic paths are a great outlet for using up seashells collected on beach holidays or pebbles from grandparents’ gardens, and have the added advantage of being very time consuming to make.

The next step is to start adding decorative detail.

Tubs are easy. Simply decorate some plastic pots or empty tin cans using acrylic paints. Sculptures and other arty additions open up endless possibilities for crafts that can be done indoors on rainy days.

If a little light woodwork is in order then a small wooden box can be converted into a dwarf summer house, while split canes, bits of willow or coloured cornus stems can be converted into obelisks, arches, pergolas or arbours.

Raffia or dried grass are superb for creating thatching.

It’s easy to make a pond by sinking a wide, shallow plant saucer or old kitchen bowl into the soil and filling it with water.

Naturally a few plants will be needed. A strip of turf bought from the garden centre or liberated from the end of the garden makes an instant lawn, and you can trim it with some scissors.

Look for bargain baby plants at nurseries and garden centres. You’ll often find offers in the herb section or the alpine area.

Lavender, box, rosemary and creeping thyme all look like scaled down versions of trees and shrubs, especially when trimmed into shape with small scissors.

Hunt out bargains at fetes and flower shows and don’t be alarmed if you get requests for garishly-coloured farm animals or model cars. They are grist to the mill for a child’s garden.