Long before fast food nation became a way of life for many families come meal time, there was the family garden. It was a place where mothers, fathers and children were stewards of the land in spring and fall, where they nurtured seedlings into vegetables, growing them, preparing them and eating them. Where the tending of the family garden was rooted in both the need for food and the need for care. Have a finicky eater? Refresh her palette with the taste of homegrown. “I’ve never seen a child refuse to eat something she grew herself,” says Amanda Grant, author of Grow It, Cook It With Kids (Ryland Peters & Small; 2010). Why not start a garden with your children this month? Here’s easy step by steps to make that happen.
THINK KID FRIENDLY
RESEARCH, FIELD TRIPS
Get books at the library. Get some for your children, too. Look at websites together, talk to friends about starting a garden. Pick a sunny spot in your yard where you can make it happen. Do this as a family.
Decide what you want to grow (easiest list is on page 41). Sketch a rough drawing of your garden. Go to nurseries, Home Depot, look at seeds together — get inspired!
All of you will need strong tools and good gloves. If you can find wooden handled ones, let the kids paint them — that will keep them interested. They can also work on garden rock painting, markers for your vegetables once they are planted — the key is to keep on making it fun. Purchase vegetables that will grow quickly like radishes, lettuce, carrots, squash, tomatoes.
Rent a tiller from a gardening center for your garden and till the land — this job is for Mom or Dad, but it will be exciting for the kids to watch their backyard transform. Let the kids pick up small rocks and weeds and such as the tilling continues. Rake and smooth the soil. Give your kids a small section that is THEIR’S for the caring. A 5’ by 5’ space is fine.
PREPARING THE SOIL
Once the soil is well tilled and loose and the grass clumps are removed, improve the soil with organic matter like compost before you begin to plant. Turn the compost into your soil to a depth of six to eight inches with garden forks. Once this is done, cover all of the organic layer with three inches of soil.
ENJOY THE PROCESS
PLANTING AND WATERING
With Mom and Dad leading the way, start planting referring to the sketch you made for “what goes where.” Let the kids get good and dirty. For tomatoes, you might want to use transplants rather than seeds just to speed things up. Give everything a good watering once it’s in the ground.