Growing Veggies with Your Little Ones
There's really nothing more wonderful or miraculous than bringing new life into the world. But I don't need to tell you that. Chances are that if you're reading this blog, you're a mom! You've already done the most miraculous thing conceivable… bringing a new human into the world.
With springtime now in sight, it's got me thinking about all the other forms of life that bloom all around us. Where I live, the hills are turning a vibrant green marked by dramatic brushstrokes of bright yellow from the mustard flowers. The springtime beauty is almost obscene.
Springtime offers up ever more possibilities of bringing new life into the world, without all the hassle of swollen ankles and buying maternity clothes. I'm talking about starting a vegetable garden, of course. Now's the time to start planting little seedlings and coaxing new plant friends into existence. The best thing about gardening, too, is that it's a great activity for the little ones and it provides a way to feed your family with freshest produce.
Growing at home
Since we're city and suburban dwellers, this article will focus more on urban gardening. We would be useless at telling you how to manage a farm anyways, so we'll leave that to the pros.
The good news is that if you have a yard of any size or even a patio, you can have a successful garden. If you have space to do so in a yard, you can dig rows in the soil and drop seeds in, making sure to water and pull weeds.
However, it's probably a better option to buy raised beds if you're suburban or city dwellers like we are. A raised bed allows you to choose the right kind of soil for growing vegetables or herbs, or even to mix soils to get a specific recipe. This is especially useful because the soil in cities or suburban areas is not always ideal for gardening. With raised beds, you are not restricted by this. Raised beds also make it harder for weeds to grow since there's little extra space, and they can be easier on the back because you'll spend less time on the ground. What's more, you can place them anywhere in your yard or patio to find the best light.
What kinds of food can I grow at home?
This depends somewhat on how much space you have. But even if you only have a balcony, you can plant in pots easily enough. Tomatoes, beans, or herbs will grow fairly well even on a balcony.
But you'd be surprised how many food items you can grow from a raised bed or container. Carrots, beans, sweet potatoes, herbs, tomatoes, lettuce, squash, and peas will all grow happily from the comfort of your patio or yard. Even better, these are all foods you can puree to make your own baby food at home!
For root vegetables like sweet potatoes, it's best to find a deeper container garden. We recommend you visit your nearest nursery to ask any specific questions you might have about which vegetables you want to grow. Your friendly neighborhood nursery attendant should be able to give you plenty of advice on which containers you will need as well as the kind of soil to use and watering regimens.
Fun for the whole family
Gardening is a great activity for the whole family! It's the perfect opportunity to bond and create memories while enjoying nature. Too often we are disconnected from our food. Many kids these days might not even know that the veggies you put in their meals come from the ground! Gardening with your kids is a great way to teach them where their food comes from and to spark an interest in nature.
Plus, what kid doesn't love to play in the dirt? When you're digging your rows in the garden or mixing the soil for your raised beds, invite your children to get their hands dirty. They'll have fun doing it, and you'll get a little helper! While digging around in the soil, look out for worms or creepy crawlers for a science lesson. Worms might be gross, you can tell your kids, but they help aerate and fertilize the soil, which helps plants grow.
When it comes time to seeding, there's an opportunity there for a math lesson. If your kids are old enough, ask them to count out how many seeds to put into each row or container, or help them count out seeds to teach them numbers. If your child is too young to count, they can still find benefit in seeding by practicing motor skills. Put the correct number of seeds in their palm and help them navigate the seedlings into the rows or holes, then have them help smooth the soil over the top.
Bring your kiddos along with you as you water the seeds and as you tend to the new shoots and pull weeds. Watering with a little watering can will also help with motor skills, and the time spent outdoors together tending a garden provides a great way to bond. This is also a perfect opportunity to teach your kids more about nature, maybe pointing out the names of plants or birds or insects. They might get a kick out of learning things like plants "eat sunlight" or that trees can communicate with one another and share resources with each other (perhaps there's a lesson here about sharing with one's siblings?)
Most fun of all is harvesting. Bring your kids along to help pluck the tomatoes from the vine or pull the carrots out of the dirt. Don't be surprised at the amazement you might see on their faces when they pull a fully formed carrot out of the ground, or better yet, when the food they helped grow appears on their dinner plate!
If any of you mamas have stories about gardening with the family, or have any tips to share, we'd love to hear them! Go ahead and comment in the comment section below. Otherwise, happy gardening!