Growing a garden can be great fun for the whole family—you get outside in the sunshine and also spend time together. Growing your own food can also teach kids about nature, hard work and responsibility. There is something special about planting seeds and watching how soil, water and sunshine all come together to create your own food. Kids will also eat more vegetables if they have ownership over what they grow. Although it might seem overwhelming to grow your own fruits and vegetables, there are some easy steps you can take to produce your own produce!
Assess your land
If you want your garden to grow, you need to understand the environment available to you. Is your yard shaded or sunny? What kind of soil do you have? Do you get a lot of rain or will you have to water your plants yourself? If you are unsure, ask some neighbors who garden or head to your local garden supply store and ask.
No land, no problem
If you live in an apartment or other location where you don’t have adequate space to grow a garden, there are other ways you can grow your own food. Container gardens are a perfect way to address this issue. You can plant seeds in small and large pots and place them on window sills, on the balcony or even on the roof with permission. Most container gardens will need full sunlight and warmth for success. If you don’t get a lot of sunlight, you can utilize growing lights. You also will need to use a potting soil that works well for vegetables. Ask at your local nursery for suggestions for the best soil for success. Want to make it super easy? Purchase container sets like the Alpine Strawberry Garden-In-A-Pail or Miracle-Gro Groables that make growing from seed to fruit or vegetable easy.
Take it to the community
If you don’t have space to grow a garden, look for a community-based garden program. Many communities have space where you can purchase or rent a plot of land to grow a garden. The bonus is that you can work side by side with some more experienced gardeners and often members will share their bounty with other participants. Start a garden at your child’s school. Teachers and parents can work together to maintain the garden with students, tying it together with science, math, health or even physical education lessons throughout the year.
Know what to grow
Are there any particular plants that grow best in your area? Ask at your local garden supply shop for advice. Many fruits and vegetables also grow best during certain seasons—consult gardening books. If you will be growing a container garden, some plants that are particularly hearty that many children enjoy include tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, peppers and green beans.
Make it fun
Your kids will be more invested in the garden if it is a fun activity. Make a chart for taking care of the garden with chores like preparing the soil, planting the seeds, watering, weeding and harvesting. Place stickers on the chart when your child completes each task. Additionally, let children create colorful markers for each item in the garden. If you have multiple children participating, divide the garden into sections and let each child take control of his or her own plot. Most of all, get dirty. There is something so fun about playing in the soil. This is not the time to care about such matters!
Not sure where to begin? Check out the Junior Master Gardener program. The Junior Master Gardener program offers a set curriculum that engages children in novel, “hands-on” group and individual learning experiences that provide a love of gardening, develop an appreciation for the environment and cultivate the mind. There are levels for elementary-, middle- and high-school-aged children.
Do you have any tips for gardening with children? Let us know in the comments!