Kids and gardening are a natural fit, it seems. Since buying our own house a few years ago, hubby and I have been slowly finding our gardening feet. We’re not natural gardeners but we do have an appreciation for being outdoors and cultivating our own patch of dirt. And whenever we’re outside the kids gravitate towards us, drawn like magnets, to our earthy activities. What I didn’t realise until recently, is all the reasons why it’s such a great family activity…
Hubby is the family’s resident foodie and has long been growing his own herbs – basil, rosemary, sage, thyme. Of late his crop has shrunk to just two varieties – sage and a very healthy rosemary shrub. But we now have plans to get serious with intentions to install a couple of vegie patches. We even bought the wooden frames from Bunnings. About six months ago. Actually, I’m exaggerating. We bought them in October, right at the start of a very busy time for us. But now things are getting back into a steady routine we’re back in the garden.
There are some very good reasons why growing your own herbs and vegies is an excellent idea. Knowing exactly what has been used – or not used – on your plant since it was a seed is a big factor. No pesticides, no herbicides, just water and sunshine – can’t get any healthier.
For me, financial factors were a motivator. When I deign to make something in the kitchen that isn’t a cake or slice; that is, something that’s generally considered a meal or at least a savoury option, it usually requires a few herbs. At Christmas time I needed dill, basil and mint. And due to our depleted garden not providing any, was forced to shell out around $2 for each sleeve of herb sold at Coles. That was $6, for some leaves!! I immediately set up some seedlings and have been watching with great pride this month as my basil and mint have flourished.
Herbs are a great starter for kids. They’re small, potted, grow quickly and are easy to care for. We’ve got our fledgling herb garden set up on the back deck, so we can see it every morning from the kitchen (which helps in remembering to water it!). The children, particularly Matilda, take their responsibilities seriously when it comes to watering. They are learning responsibility, nurturing tendencies and getting an understanding of how we can grow things for our own consumption. Also, as we embrace the garden beds, there is a physical activity component to the hobby. They’re outdoors in the sunshine (Vitamin D, good for skin and bones), getting fresh air and exercise. What more can you ask for?
And as this Babyzone article points out, it’s a hobby the whole family can participate in, from planning the garden, to preparing the ground, to choosing the plants, to digging them in, to watering, to harvesting or watching them flower! It doesn’t matter what your skill or ability level is – everyone can participate! This article also offers some great child-friendly gardening tips if you’re thinking of getting the kids into the garden, such as: put in “clear paths, narrow beds, and edible plants”.
In addition, there are these benefits:
- Children who grow their own food are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables
- Children who grow food will have more knowledge about nutrition
- They are more likely to continue healthy eating habits throughout their lifetime
- Children who garden have a better understanding of environmental issues
Finally, a University of Colorado Health Sciences Centre fact sheet revealed:
Children in Years 3 – 5 who participated in a year-long school gardening program showed “significantly higher self-understanding, interpersonal relationship skills and ability to work in groups, compared with nonparticipating students”.
Also, in a separate study, students in “a community garden classroom program in San Antonio revealed that participants were likely to have positive bonding experiences with their parents andother adults. Children who garden are more accepting of others who are different from themselves”.
So, those are all the reasons why the Moores should be gardening. And as already mentioned, we’ve dipped our toes in with herb gardens.
The next step is building our garden beds and putting them into place along our boundary fence. But this month it has rained non-stop! Hubby made a great start on moving a mountain and clearing a space for our garden bed, but since the rain came work has been forced to stop. We’re now waiting for things to dry out before we can finish the project.
Hopefully, within the next week or two we’ll have more progress to report. In the meantime, we’re discussing what vegies to plant. I have friends who are prolific gardeners and all have had good advice on what to grow and what to avoid (carrots never grow properly – coming out of the ground in stunted little nubs!) while potatoes, lettuces, pumpkins and tomatoes are all good for the Brisbane climate. My friend Rachel over at RavsRecreations has a ripper blog about backyard gardening (including her awesome chooks) and she writes intelligently about all kinds of aspects to food production. Another Brisbane mum I love reading is Catherine Oehlman (Squiggle Mum) who writes prolifically about the benefits of children being in the great outdoors and she is a long-time advocate of children experiencing outside world (even after her daughter fell out of a tree and broke her arm!).
So I’m looking for suggestions. What should I grow? What should I avoid? And ideally, where should my garden bed be placed? We’re a bit limited and I think we’re putting it on the western boundary of our property but I don’t think it will get too much scorching afternoon sun as the houses will put it in shade from about 4pm in summer.