Think kid-friendly, don't rush and enjoy the process of a homegrown experience!
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? Use these easy steps to make that happen.
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 — easy foods include carrots, radishes, lettuce, green beans, cherry tomatoes, green onions and snow peas. Sketch a rough drawing of your garden. Go to nurseries, Home Depot, look at seeds together — get inspired!
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.
PLANTING AND WATERING
With Mom and Dad leading the way, start planting and refer 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.
WHY A GARDEN?
• Kids are more likely to eat what they have grown.
• It’s excellent physical activity.
• Kids who grow up with a garden are more likely to have one later in life.
• Gardening can be a needed downtime for busy children and adults.
• The garden is a place of learning — cooking, science, new vocabulary, etc.
• It helps you connect with nature.
• Gardening together can help deepen family connections.
• A garden can help set better eating habits for life.
• It can save you money and deter you from hopping in the car to eat out.
• Excess harvest can be donated to those in need.
• You’ll be able to enjoy some of the freshest and healthiest food.