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Grow Happy Memories (& Good Food!) in a Family Garden

gardening #13

Growing a vegetable garden and making it a family activity has many benefits: it’s eco-friendly, you save money on food, homegrown vegetables have more flavor than the store-bought kind, the kids get excited about nature – they love to get dirty and watch plants grow – and, if you’re lucky, you have extra food that you can share with your neighbors and the less fortunate.

But how to get started? Isn’t it too late to plant for this season?

It’s not too late (read “When to Plant Vegetable Seeds” at http://www.2bseeds.com/plantingschedule.shtml or start with seedlings), and it’s easy!

•Find a location. If you don’t have a plot of land available, try container gardening or use a community garden. Start small – maybe 10 feet x 16 feet or so.

•Gather basic supplies: shovels, rakes, hoes, gardening gloves.

•Take “before” pictures – your kids will love to look back and admire the progress!

•Prepare the soil. (“How to Prepare Soil for a Garden” gives great tips with photos: http://www.wikihow.com/Prepare-Soil-for-a-Garden.) Consider using organic fertilizers and insect repellants.

•Choose the right plants for your location and needs. How much sun and water do your plants need? What kinds of vegetables your family will eat? How much time and energy do you have to invest?

•Include some fast-growing plants as well as vegetables that grow low to the ground, like strawberries, cherry tomatoes, snap peas, red lettuce, and pumpkins. Get picky eaters involved in the planning; they’ll be more likely to eat what they’ve helped grow. Maybe a theme garden? A pizza garden might have several kinds of tomatoes; herbs like basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme; peppers like green bell and jalapeño; and onions. Also, kids love to dig, so you may want to include carrots and potatoes in your garden.

•(Speaking of digging…) Let your kids help dig and plant – let them get dirty. In fact, consider leaving a digging area they can use even after the garden is planted.

•Give your kids age-appropriate chores. Toddlers with toddler-sized tools can rake dirt, dig holes, pull weeds, water, sow seeds in pots. Elementary-aged kids can help plan, plant, water, label plants, weed, help harvest. Tweens and teens can research what will grow where, plan the garden, till the soil, plant, water, weed, harvest.

•Implement some fun, kid-friendly ideas.Plant lettuce seeds in the shape of your child’s initial. Make a “teepee” out of 3 bamboo stakes (6 feet works well); grow beans on and around the stakes and let kids sit inside.

•Once you’ve planted, make sure you water regularly and keep weeds at bay.

Start some family gardening traditions. For example, take a daily tour of your garden. Keep a garden journal. Hold a “longest cucumber” or “largest tomato” contest. Host a garden party and serve only things from the garden.

Take pictures regularly to monitor your progress; you’ll have fun looking back at your garden growing during the long winter days ahead. Send in a picture or two to karenr@warrenvilleparks.org and we'll post it on our Facebook page.

Next post: attracting beautiful visitors to your garden. Happy gardening!

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