Sprinkling a little magic dust

I’ve thought about building a fairy garden for my daughter (and me, if I’m being entirely honest!) for a few years now.

But I’ve been put off by the elaborate, fancy, expensive ones that adorn Pinterest, Instagram and the like.


However, I soon realised it doesn’t have to cost the earth or involve lots of new stuff. The most expensive addition to our fairy garden was three alpine plants, compost and some pea gravel.

It’s amazing how many fairy-garden-ready items you can find kicking around your shed/house/garden, neglected for ages and needing a new purpose in life. Charity/thrift shops are also treasure troves for little bits and pieces.

For the container, I recycled an old Belfast sink which had seen better days and added a log that didn’t quite fit in our fireplace last winter.


Tiny sawn pieces of branches made an ideal table and chairs and I used old glass beads for the pond/paths.


Even fairies have to do washing occasionally so I took two twigs and a piece of twine and cut up some odd scraps of material with pinking shears for the washing. It’s held on with mini pegs, the kind you get in most craft shops.


I did concede to a small person’s requests for a few new items, namely this cute ceramic cat, which fits perfectly into his shell bed we dug up. The fairy door was also bought for this project.


Knots and holes in the log were chiselled out to insert windows.


Not sure the whale is a native to the garden pond, but he moved in all the same.


This is the garden’s first Spring as it was built last autumn. Other than having to replace the washing line and take out a few random weeds, it hasn’t needed any maintenance. Unlike a made-to-measure shop bought one, this approach takes a little while longer to ‘bed in’, but I think it’s all the better for it.

You can make the basic garden in a few hours and just add to it as and when you like. Just make sure if you’re using a heavy container like an old sink that it’s in situ before you start! The mix was about a third grit to two-thirds compost as I didn’t want it too rich for the alpines.

It’s also important to make sure you have adequate drainage so the plants don’t rot. As well as a gritty mix of soil, I added small stones along the bottom of the sink and made sure the plug hole was clear.

When choosing plants, alpines are ideal as they don’t take much looking after and are fairly small and compact so work to scale in a garden this size.

The whole garden, including compost, grit, plants and the fairy door and cat, came to just over £10. All the other items were recycled.

It really is very simple and cheap to make and will reward you with hours of play: the only limit is your imagination! Hope you’ve been inspired to sprinkle a little magic fairy dust in your garden soon.

New beginnings

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I’ve been writing a blog for The Hop Garden for many years, and this is a new off-shoot of that one, for little green fingers.

I hope it might provide some inspiration for those wanting to get out in the garden with small people, but not sure quite where to start.

Gardening with children, even from a very young age, is a wonderful low-cost activity. It also has the added bonus of giving us adults the perfect excuse to switch-off from our often hectic lives for a while and re-connect with the childlike delight that comes from growing and exploring the natural world.

And Spring is a perfect time to start: the nights and mornings are getting lighter and there are some encouraging signs of nature starting to wake up from winter, even in Northern England!

For a simple activity, head out in your garden or the local woods or park and see how many signs of Spring you can spot together such as flowers and buds on trees and bushes.

Take time to look closely at the tiny petals on snowdrops and crocus you find and, if you fancy something a bit more imaginative with a toddler and upwards, ponder on who might live in them (fairies are always a favourite with my daughter!)  A whole host of stories can evolve from these humble beginnings.

It’s also a good time to start sowing seeds, and as soon as they can handle small objects, children will love playing with seeds and compost. I have some wooden paper potters, which aren’t essential, but they have been a great investment for our community garden (I think they were about £8 the last time I checked) as you can make endless pots out of newspaper from them for free.

They are also great for reducing the amount of plastic pots we use and as the paper is compostable, you can plant the whole thing into the ground or into a bigger pot, which is particularly effective for crops such as peas which get a bit grumpy if they have their roots interfered with.
If you’re just starting out, you can’t go far wrong with early peas and a packet of seeds will last for ages. Just plant two in each pot – little hands can push them gently under the surface approximately up to their knuckle deep.

Simply make sure they’re well covered and the exact depth doesn’t really matter as long as they’re aren’t so deep that the port peas give up trying before they get to the surface! Let the strongest seedling grow on once it appears and keep them well watered, but not soaking, on either a window sill or in a greenhouse until the risk of frosts are past.

Peas do need some support – just old twigs and branches stuck in the soil to make a frame will do or you can make an elaborate teepee out of poles and string if you’re feeling more adventurous, which has the added bonus of being an edible hideaway.

I’ve found even the most vegetable-averse child cannot resist a pea they’ve just picked out of the pod 🙂