Tips for Success in the Family Garden
By Kim Buddington
Are you seeking a fun project to do with your kids this spring and summer? Want to encourage them to put down the electronics and get out into nature instead?Start a backyard garden! Getting children started with gardening at a young age can help cultivate (pun intended) lifelong healthy habits. If you live in an urban neighborhood, gardening is a great and practical way to introduce kids to the world of agriculture.
In fact, gardening was my first exposure to agriculture. Since as far back as my memory goes as a child, I helped my dad with his plants. I even had my little plot where I could play around and experiment with growing seeds of my choice. I developed a slight obsession with cabbage plants (I didn’t exactly care to eat cabbage, I just loved how the plants looked in the garden.)
When I was 11, I did a gardening related science fair project for school, looking at different potting soils and their effects on the growth of marigold plants. I still remember the night the inspiration hit me to start the project. I was purely excited to learn while doing something I loved.
What a great way to grow up. I’m so thankful that I grew up with my hands in the dirt! Take the time to begin gardening with your own family. I’ve compiled some tips to help you get digging. I hope you find them useful.
Make a Plan
First things first…get the family together and come up with a plan for the garden. Keep it simple, and let the children help and share their ideas. Settle on a few things to try to grow in the garden. You could grow fruits and vegetable, herbs, flowers, or some of each. Does your family love pizza? Plant a garden that features all the fixings for a delicious and healthy homemade pizza! Grow things such as peppers, tomatoes, basil, and onions. At Mykidsadventure.com, there are quite a few other great ideas for themed gardens you can explore. (1)
Make sure that the plants you choose to include are compatible with the climate of where you live. Let the children help you with this research, as appropriate for their ages. Be sure to consider other essential factors for gardening success, such as shade, sunlight, soil type/condition, and the possible need for wildlife control. (2)
Playing in the Dirt
Once a suitable spot for the new garden is decided upon, it’s time for the fun part, prepping for plants! Make sure you have some shovels, cultivators, and other like equipment that your kids can easily handle to keep them engaged. Let them get dirty and have fun with the process. Don’t get too caught up in perfection if things veer from the original plan a bit. The goal is learning and fostering a love and respect for nature, as well as an appreciation of where food comes from. (2)
Depending on which plants are desired, some seeds will able to be sown directly into the garden soil with good results. Plants that take longer to germinate and mature, such as tomatoes, you will probably be better off buying plants that have been pre-started to transplant into your garden. Pay attention to the weather forecast and soil temperature before planting species that are frost sensitive. (1)
Once the garden is planted, get the kids to help you check the plot every day. Simple record keeping books or charts are a great learning tool. Photography of plant development and seasonal progression are also fun activities. Implement a schedule for regular tasks like watering and weeding, and if there are multiple children involved, rotate chore responsibilities. (2)
As the growing season advances, your family will be harvesting wonderful fresh produce in no time! However, gardening will also teach a real lesson in patience. When the harvest comes, have the kids see their work through until the end- let them help in the kitchen and prepare some yummy recipes that include what they grew. (1)
If the growing season is excellent, and you have way more produce than your family can consume, use this opportunity to enhance the educational experience even more. To inspire your young entrepreneurs, start a little business. Some local farmers market allow youth to set up a table and sell their products for free or for a very low cost, so explore your options. Or you could set up a little self-serve roadside stand if you live in a suitable area.
To teach generosity and an awareness of those less fortunate, you could opt to try (after checking rules and regulations) to donate your bounty to a local soup kitchen, church, or other community organization. (1)
So if you haven’t yet started gardening with your family, or even friends and neighbors, make this the year it happens. The satisfaction of seeing the return on their labor is precious for young people. Who knows what might be inspired in their futures, all thanks to soil, water, and some seeds.