Happy new year, friends! Today’s all about new starts, but no worries- I won’t be forcing any New Year’s resolutions on you, I’ve still got to find the time to plot out my own. No, today’s post is all about brand new growth…. in the garden! Jennifer, the BusyAuntie, has some great tips to get your whole family outside this spring, filling your backyard garden with beautiful produce that will pack your plate full of nutrition in just a few short weeks.
(Some rights reserved, USFWS Mountain-Prairie via Flickr Creative Commons)
In Beyond Ecophobia, David Sobel famously says, “If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, let us allow them to love the earth before we ask them to save it. Perhaps this is what Thoreau had in mind when he said, “the more slowly trees grow at first, the sounder they are at the core, and I think the same is true of human beings.”
Sobel speaks towards something that many parents these days tend to forget, in a time where the busy rush of technology has us opting for convenience over experience, where we forget to take the time to take in the nature surrounding us. Growing our own food in the garden has quickly become replaced by quick visits to the grocery store, and we’re unknowingly missing out on some great lessons for our kids. However, the great thing about gardening is that it’s never too late to start, and getting started is never that difficult. With a bit of work and elbow grease, you could be growing your own veggies in your home too, and your kids could be helping you out.
These days, gardening can be done in just about any space, no matter how small. With the help of terrariums and indoor planters, growing herbs and small vegetables inside your own kitchen is completely possible. If you have a bit of space, though, setting up your own home garden is just as easy, and you can get the kids involved every step of the way.
1. Pick a Plant
The first thing you have to do is plan your garden out. Get the kids involved with picking the vegetable you’ll be planting in your starter garden. Do some research and discuss how long each plant takes to grow, how much work it takes, and whether the plants they want to grow are suitable for the season. This is an excellent time to teach kids about the life cycle of plants, and the care that plants need at every step of the way. Involving them in the process of making this decision is a great way to help them feel important and responsible for the garden even before the project takes shape.
2. Pick a Spot
Once you know what kind of plant you’re going to grow, it’s time to look for a suitable spot. If you have a bigger yard, make sure that you find a spot that has full sun, plenty of good soil, and easy access to water – after all, you don’t want to be lugging around buckets of water if your garden is too far from a hose! Ask your kids to help you with testing soil out as well. Wet the soil you want to plant in with a house, wait a day, and take the soil and try to clump it in your hand. If it forms a good clump, then you’re ready to start planting, but if the clump crumbles, your soil might be too sandy. Your kids are sure to love working with their hands and learning about soil as well.
3. Plant Your Produce
Now for the dirty work! You might be better off preparing your garden with the right amount of soil and with setting up raised beds, but when it comes to actually planting the seeds or the plants in your garden, don’t forget to involve the kids! There are many kid-sized gardening tools out there for your kids, so they can work with their own trowels and rakes too. Having their own gardening equipment is sure to help them feel more involved with the garden as well.
4. Pest Control
When it comes to maintaining your garden, kids are sure to be invaluable help. As the plants begin to grow, your kids will become more excited about it, and you can make a habit of checking on the plant every morning. Taking timelapse photos of the plant can even help them further their understanding of its growth cycle, and assigning them tasks such as watering the plant whenever it’s necessary, or helping to pull out weeds from the garden will help them become more responsible. You can also take this chance to teach them about the many bugs that can infest your garden.
5. Pick Your Produce
When it comes time to pick your plants, your kids will have already learned how a plant grows, and you can watch them swell with pride as you harvest your produce. This is the perfect time to ask them what they want to make with the vegetables you’ve just grown, and to ask them if they want to help prepare the food. You can also look back on the photos you’ve taken over the course of the plant’s life, and recall the lessons you’ve learned, as well as begin planning for your next garden.
Kids can learn a lot from gardening with their parents, and it’s a shame that not more parents take the time to start their own gardens. Just make sure that you’re prepared, and have not just the right equipment for yourself and your kids, but answers to their questions as well. Kids will need to be dressed in comfortable clothes if you want them to enjoy gardening, and even though there are many specialty kids gardening clothes stores out there, there’s no need to spend so much. A simple, comfortable cotton shirt, loose-fitting drawstring shorts, booties, gardening gloves and an apron should be a good enough outfit for your kids to enjoy gardening in.
Do you have any other tips for parents who want to get their kids involved in their gardens? Have any photos to share of your children’s gardening exploits? Let us know in the comments below!
About the author:
The BusyAuntie has fond memories of gardening with her grandparents in the summers of her childhood, and had often asked her own parents to start a garden in their front yard. Unfortunately, busy schedules prevented them from starting that garden, but now that she’s gotten her own place, she’s started her own garden where her nieces and nephews help her grow tomatoes and lettuce! Watch out for her own blog!