There is something powerful about soil-covered toes and dirty finger nails. They say these feet and hands are one with nature. Spring is looming. You can feel it in the air, can’t you? Buds are forming, green shoots spring from the soil, and it feels (and sounds) like all the birds just returned from their winter vacations.
So, here’s a question. Do you love fresh, seasonal vegetables? Think fresh green salad drenched in your favourite olive oil dressing with delectable new potatoes, the sweetest ruby red strawberries, and mouth-watering homemade basil pesto. Do you love going to farmers markets, filling your wicker basket with a rainbow of fresh vegetables from this week’s harvest? How about creating exciting multi-sensory learning opportunities for your children in your own garden, and feeding them the freshest, healthiest food?
If you answered yes, yes, and yes, then I think growing a vegetable garden is for you!
That’s sounds idyllic! you’re thinking. But just as quickly you think Surely it’s not something a busy mum is able to take on. It’s too complicated, too time consuming and labour intensive isn’t it?
Go on, dig a vegetable garden.
You don’t have to live on a homestead with acreage to grow vegetables. It’s possible even in the tiniest of gardens, whether you choose a couple of planters on the back deck, or a raised bed by the curb. With just a little investment of time and energy, you too can be the proud farmer of homegrown, delicious herbs, and vegetables. Did I mention the excitement when you serve friends homegrown salads, or a mojito with fresh mint from your garden? It feels amazing.
So, from the outset there’s no denying – it’s a little labour intensive. Look at your space, decide what you would love to grow and eat. There’s no point growing beautiful Siberian Dwarf Kale if no one in our house likes to eat kale. It’s also important to note that all vegetables require different amounts of growing space. If you fancy growing carrots, you can grow 16 plants per square foot, but broccoli requires a whole square foot all to themselves. Consider your light. If your vegetable garden is shaded all day, tomatoes probably won’t thrive. Prep your soil with a premixed fertilizer. Not sure what to grow where? There’s an app for that.
Grab yourself some little starts or seeds, whichever you prefer. Seedling starts can yield faster and be put directly into the ground. Seeds will need to be started indoors or in a greenhouse 4-6 week prior to planting. Next, give the little people spades and enjoy a bit of hard digging. This can double as your daily exercise and fresh air intake, all while keeping the kids entertained.
Let them dig till their little hearts’ content, exploring, and discovering. Playing with bugs and worms is all part of the fun. When their attention wavers, give them the hose. kids + water and dirt = hours of fun!
Kids love to be involved, and growing a garden offers kids opportunities to learn about growth rates, photosynthesis and pollination. Your two-year-old may empty your seed packet on the floor, drop the spade on your foot, become disinterested in digging at the mere glimpse of a worm, but breath deeply mama.
Here are 5 ways digging a vegetable garden will make you feel like a rock star mum:
Getting your hands in the earth is relaxing and therapeutic, and it provides a fabulous, multi-sensory activity for your kids, connecting them to the land and nature.
Planting is a great learning opportunity for kids. Talk to them about what plants need to grow and survive, and how the bees interact with them. Give kids ownership of a little area in the garden, and ask what they would love to grow and eat. Make it their space to water and weed (under supervision of course).
3. Save Money
Use the few dollars you would have spent on produce at the grocery store for fun family activities.
4. The Environment
Growing your own vegetable garden means no packaging and no transportation (carbon footprint) required. And an increasingly plant-based diet means less environmental degradation due to the beef and poultry industries.
5. Healthy Diets
If kids plant it, water it, grow it, they will eat it. Connecting your kids to the land and the food they eat is so important for healthy eating habits. And they learn that food doesn’t come from a grocery store.
Growing vegetables means exercise for you, education and fun for the kids, and is kinder for the planet. Inspired? Happy gardening folks!