I Grew It Myself! Garden with Your Kids
Photos of happy gardeners!
Having a vegetable garden in your back yard is a great way to spend quality time with your kids every year. You’ll both learn a lot from the experience. Everyone wants their kids to eat healthy food and fresh vegetables taste so much better than anything you can buy at the store. By getting your kids involved in the garden they’ll be much more interested in the harvest and will be more willing to try new tastes. The key is to do some planning in advance so you’ll all have a good time.
If you have the time, a raised bed is best, and if you can afford it, using a high-quality potting mix as your soil will eliminate hours of digging and weeding. There’s nothing that makes a kid (or parent!) lose interest in gardening more quickly than three hour-long weeding sessions every week! Find a potting mix without any fertilizer and add your own, slow release organic fertilizer instead.
Early February is the time to prepare your spring garden of cool-weather crops such as lettuce, carrots, spinach, beets, peas and onions. Peas, garlic, onion sets and beets are just the right size for even small children to plant. Smaller seeds for lettuce and carrots need to be sprinkled with adult supervision to ensure even distribution.
Do a bit of research on what you want to plant so you know the proper planting times and how many plants you’ll need for a proper harvest. Your locally run garden center will have a helpful staff of knowledgeable employees to answer all your home gardening questions. The Internet is also a wonderful resource for learning about gardening.
But by far the best value of gardening with your kids are the memories you create. I remember sitting on the back porch shelling peas with my grandfather. We would joke that we ate more of the peas raw than ever made it into the bowl. There’s nothing more rewarding than the joy and excitement on a kids face as he pulls a giant sweet potato out of the ground, or finds a mutant carrot with two legs. These memories will last a lifetime and they’ll end up spending time with their own kids later on.
- There’s so much your children can learn, whether they’re toddlers or teens. Here are some quick ideas…
- 1. Keep a chart of the sun’s progress in a day to determine the best spot for your garden. Six hours is needed for good results.
- 2. Head out to a nearby wooded area and bring a shovel. Show how leaves act as a mulch, how rotting leaves act as compost, and how this all makes the soil below dark and rich. Dig even deeper to find the inevitable Carolina red clay subsoil.
- 3. The value of patience. In a world where a movie lasts 90 minutes, gardens may take two weeks for a seed to sprout and two months for a harvest.
- 4. Another valuable lesson is that not everything in the garden is going to work the way you planned it. Plants die, crops fail. It’s all part of the experience and good gardeners learn from their mistakes and try to fix them next year.
- For older kids…
- 1. Math in the garden
- Do some real life math problems – pounds of organic fertilizer per square foot, cubic feet of soil in the raised bed. Do a layout of your planting plan. Chart the growth of specific plants and record harvest results.
- 2. Science in the garden…
- Experiment with different techniques and chart the results – put one plant in full sun and another in partial sun and measure the differences. Experiment with different levels of fertilizer or different types of soil.
- 3. Bugs in the garden…
- Take some time to look close and you’ll see all sorts of insect life in your garden. Catch some bugs in a glass jar and take them inside so you can look them up on the Internet.
For more info, check out my book, “No Green Thumb Required!”