Growing up in New Hampshire I have vivid memories of gardening with my parents. The joys of watching new sprouts pop through the soil, grow into plants and produce the very fruits and vegetables that would be part of our meals was a great lesson in where food comes from (or at least where it SHOULD come from). I want my kids to have the same experience and they are now at an age where they are interested and enthusiastic about gardening!
Maintaining a garden in a dessert mountain area definitely has it’s challenges, but each year we learn a little more through experimentation. This year the boys helped us plant much of our homegrown produce by seed. Our 5-year-old loved placing the seeds in rows and covering them up. Each day it’s been a fun activity for all of us to check on the garden and see what has changed. “The tomatoes are dying,” “the greens are exploding,” “do you think the carrots are ready?”
Harvesting has been especially fun for our little ones to partake in. They love seeing what we can add to our dinner plates and it certainly seems to be helping to get them to eat their greens:-) “Mom, don’t harvest anything without me today. I want to help!”
The first couple “harvests” were amazing. A mixture of quickly sauteed kale, purple pak choi, spinach and swiss chard is shown above. The leaves were so tender and sweet.
Tips for involving your kids in the backyard garden:
• Your garden can be as small and simple or as big and complex as you would like. Either way, it’s a great opportunity to expose your children to where food comes from.
• Keep it fun! Don’t worry about everything being perfect. If the seeds all fall in one place (which happened more than once in our raised beds) see what happens. They need the experience to learn and appreciate the joys of growing their own food.
• Let each child have a small section in the garden that they care for. Maybe they plant the starters or seeds themselves, water, and check for bugs as the season goes on. Help them behind the scenes to have some successes.
• Find out what veggies and fruits they want to try and grow. Allow them to be part of the garden planning.
• Send them out to check for signs of growth, dry spots or animals.
• Encourage their questions! We certainly get many these days about where all the food on our plate came from: the farm (our CSA)? our garden? the farmer’s market? or the store? And if the answer is from the store, how did it get to the store? These are all great things for our little ones to be thinking about.
• Let your kids help decide how you will use the produce you grow. They will be much more likely to eat it!
One of my favorite quotes I read somewhere:
“One of the best things you ever grow may be a gardener.”