Photo: Food Literacy Project at Oxmoor Farm, Louisville, Ky.
By Anne Nagro
Here are five easy tips to keep in mind when starting a garden with children, whether at home, school or in a after-school program.
No experience necessary. You don’t have to be a “gardener” to garden with children. Don’t let being a “brown thumb” hold you back. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn alongside your child. You may be surprised what you learn from her.
Start small. Don’t get overwhelmed by the obligations of a large garden when you’re first starting out. You’d be surprised how much you can grow in a four-foot by six-foot plot. Plant some veggies among the landscaping, or in pots on the porch or balcony. You always can expand the garden’s scope and size.
Choose easy-to-grow, tasty varieties. Encourage children to eat what they grow by planting favorite fruits and veggies. Strawberries come up every year. Sugar snap peas are crunchy and sweet. Cherry and grape tomatoes are prolific and delicious. My boys won’t eat cooked spinach, but love it fresh from the garden in a salad. If starting from seed, choose seeds that are easy for little fingers to handle. Peas, sunflowers, beets, cucumbers and squash are some of the bigger seeds. Maybe grow a vegetable that’s new to you both, too! (Note: If Mr. Rabbit lives in your neighborhood, you may need to put chicken wire around your plot.)
Don’t stress out. Planting with children can get a little crazy at times. But don’t worry: Plants are more resilient than you may think. On planting day, remember roots down, green up. Throughout the growing season, water and weed. Covering the bare ground with grass clippings will help keep the soil moist, weeds in check, and eventually break down and feed the soil.
Embrace sustainable growing. The goal of a children’s vegetable garden is to eat the vegetables, and nothing tastes better than a sun-warmed strawberry. So don’t use chemicals or pesticides that would prevent them from eating right off the vine. Soapy water from a spray bottle deters many pests and natural fertilizers like fish emulsion aren’t chemical based. If you run into an issue you can’t fix on your own, check out the organic garden products at the store, the online catalog Gardens Alive, or the tried-and-true ‘recipes’ of Jerry Baker.
And, of course, Have Fun!
Copyright Anne Nagro
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