If They Grow It, They Will (Likely) Eat It.

Posted Posted by SofiaLZX in featured, Fun Ideas, Tips,Tricks & Best Practices     Comments 1 comment
Apr
16

By Sofia Horvath, Master Facilitator and Mother of 3

We are in prime garden-starting season and I would like to celebrate it by sharing a bit of my gardening journey with you. (Insert reflective music here.)

It was just about two years ago when I dabbled in gardening for the first time. Wait. That is not exactly right. I had “dabbled” before, but had only failed. Nothing grew, nothing survived. I spent money on containers and potting soil, seeds and plants. I never got anything to live, let alone thrive enough to actually pick! 2 years ago that all changed when I rented a plot in our local community garden about a mile from our house.

I had a 20ft x 20ft plot that was my own. It was more than enough space to try planting different things while, at the same time, giving my kids enough space to dig and play (and keep busy while I weeded). I tried a mixture of starting things from seed as well as buying plants and transplanting them. I tried planting a mixture of food we like and food I figured we could just try planting because they always seem to do well for others. (After all, I DID need a measure of success to keep going!) I can say that I had enough success that year to continue (this will be the third year I have worked the plot), and enough “failure” from which to learn. But it has been through these 2+ years of my gardening experiment that I have learned some really important lessons – not just about gardening, but also challenging yourself, including your kids, feeding your kids, and appreciating what we have.

1.  Make a plan.  Grab some graph paper, do a bit of research online regarding what plants grow well and when, decide whether starting from seed is best or buying plants,  figure out (roughly) how much space you need for what. Despite all your best efforts, things still won’t be perfect but a bit of planning ahead of time greatly increases your chance for gardening success!

2. Realize you have months for things to work. The first year I was ready to throw in the towel by Memorial Day until I was encouraged and reminded by a fellow gardener that you have all summer- and into the fall! There really is something to be said for patience and delayed gratification (good lesson for adults AND kids!). Just because something isn’t working right away, doesn’t mean it isn’t working.

3. Appreciate the little things and share them with your children. (Though I usually found that the kids shared the little things with me and helped ME appreciate them more.) Find a frog or a worm? Enjoy it! Name it as your garden mascot. Find the first teeny tomato on your tomato plant? Celebrate it! Take pictures! Get excited!

4. Let your kids in on the planning. Let them help you pick what you plant. Give them extra seeds and see what happens! My 5 year old had better luck with HIS zucchini plant last year than I did. I don’t know what his secret was, but it worked. And somehow, to him, his zucchini always tasted better at dinner. Not one to eat a lot of that vegetable, he gobbled it up on the night’s we served his…

5. Try some interesting things- purple carrots, broccoli rabe, brussel sprouts, yellow tomatoes. Give the kids (and yourself) the opportunity to try new things! Again, not everything will grow, but each misstep will be a learning experience.

6. Appreciate your ancestors. Gardening gave our family a much greater appreciation for the generations before that lived off of what they grew. They worked hard for what they ate and wasted far less. I still enjoy the opportunity to buy and eat items that I could never grow myself (e.g. avocados), but I enjoy talking to my kids, discussing what families would do for food 200 years ago, and lessons we can learn about providing for ourselves.

7. Connect with others. Whether it is by participating in a community garden or by going to online forums, talk to other gardeners. Veteran gardeners have a lot of easy tips to help you get started. It is fun to compare what you are growing and what is working for you. It is reassuring to hear that other people are having an “off” year with their tomatoes, as well.

8. Document what you do. Jot it down in a notebook, take pictures, blog, email friends. Keep notes on what you do so that you can remember what worked and what didn’t from year to year. It is also especially gratifying to look at pictures from the beginning of one season to the end as the garden fills out. Be proud of your accomplishments!

9. And last, but certainly not least, enjoy eating food that you KNOW from where it came. You know how it was planted, grown, and prepared. You know what went into the dirt to nourish it, and what you did to help it grow. We can’t say that about everything we eat, but if we take small steps, we can be confident about some of the food we consume. Baby steps.

Gardening has been a wonderful and fulfilling challenge for my children and me. There are so many lessons you can learn from it that I couldn’t possibly name them all here. But I AM looking forward to what else we will learn this year as we get our hands (and knees, and faces) dirty.

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For more information on gardening, check out these links (and feel free to share more, if you have some you have found helpful!):

http://www.vegetable-gardening-online.com/index.html

http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/

http://www.bhg.com/gardening/

 

 

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