Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Little Green Thumbs - Vegetable Gardening with Kids

If your kids are like mine, they are attracted to the vegetable garden like bees to coneflowers. And if you have a shovel in your hand, they come running with pleas of, "Can I help? I want to help!"

Involving your kids in vegetable gardening is a great way to teach them about nature, biology, healthy eating, how to care for another living thing, and so much more. One of the first lessons you might want to teach them, though, is about 'baby plants' and how they won't be happy if they are pulled out of the soil too early! I learned this after my little one and her girlfriend pulled out all of my carrot seedlings one year.

There are a few things you can do to ensure everyone has fun, and learns a little something, in the vegetable garden this year.

Small is good!
A large space can overwhelm little kids, so designate a small space in the garden for their own. You'd be surprised how much you can grow in a 4 foot by 4 foot space, or in a container. And get the kids their own little gardening tools; mini shovels, gloves and watering cans are easier for their small hands.

Plant what they like, and what they don't.
Does your little one like cherry tomatoes? Plant those! Not only will you not have to buy them, but your kids will be more interested in growing something they are familiar with. At my house, cherry tomatoes don't even make it to the kitchen. They are eaten right off the plant while the kids are outside playing, and I don't have to make an afternoon snack!

Kids that participate in the growing of food are more apt to try things they may never have enjoyed in the past, so plant even those veggies that you think they don't like. Soon you may see them want to eat a wider variety of veggies because they planted them, cared for them, and harvested them.

Step away from the Miracle Gro!
Make a commitment to resist synthetic chemicals and keep your garden organic. Use lots of compost to provide your plants with the minerals they need, and you won't have to worry about what your little green thumbs touch or eat while in the garden.

Make memories.
One of my strongest memories of growing up was my mom's huge vegetable garden. Sure, it was a lot of work, but there was magic in that space too. I'm sure it's a big reason why I'm so
obsessed interested in horticulture.
Take lots of pictures of your kids in the garden throughout the season, not only for future smiles, but so your kids can see how the plants grow from week to week. When you have monster zucchini plants in July, they may have forgotten how tiny those seedlings were in May.

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