By Gail Vanik
I see a golden opportunity thanks to COVID-19. Now that families are together because of the safer at home practices, it’s a perfect time to teach your children about planting, caring for and harvesting a garden. It’s also an opportunity to teach your children about where their food comes from.
Families come to the greenhouses each fall and see the broccoli growing but more often than not, the kids don’t know what it is. If you are planning to plant a Victory Garden 2020 of your own this year, I encourage you to include your children in those plans.
As I discussed in my previous column, it can be done on a small basis using a square foot method so even if you don’t have a lot of space, you can still be successful with these lessons. This is also sometimes called “intensive gardening,” and the goal is to harvest as much as possible from a small space, so it’s a great place for kids to begin to learn to garden. Since the area will be small, it’s easily planted and maintained. Make sure your plots size is proportionate to their age though so that they don’t become frustrated in caring for too large an area.
Young gardeners enjoy the bright color of flowers, but vegetables have the added bonus of being edible, so the lessons can extend from watching the plant grow, to harvest, to possibly adding a cooking lesson.
Choose plants or seeds of varieties of vegetables that your children already like or of flowers that they choose. If you have young kids, select something that grows quickly, like beans, in order to hold their interest. Their enthusiasm is maintained if they see instant, or almost instant results. For that reasons, you may prefer to start with established plants from the garden center instead of starting with seeds. Don’t forget about root crops like radishes, carrots, and potatoes. Even young gardeners can have fun pulling up a green top and finding a vegetable attached. Digging for potatoes in the fall is the gardeners version of hide-and-seek! Slightly older children or the more experienced junior gardeners may enjoy planting things like tomatoes that take a little more care.
Some of the easiest vegetables to grow in our area include most any of the squashes, lettuces, radishes, beans and cucumbers. Some of these can take quite a bit of space, depending on which variety you select so be sure to check before purchasing. However, many varieties have recently been bred to take less space and produce smaller fruits so those may be more suited to your planting space. Consider including some carrots. I remember pulling a carrot on a warm summer day to munch on as I weeded in the garden. They are wonderful “eat as you go” things to hold young gardeners interest and they don’t need to be fully grown to be enjoyed.
A great way to keep children active in the family garden is by making a small investment in kids gardening tools. A good, sturdy set is generally inexpensive and paired with some seeds and perhaps a child-sized watering can, these make great gifts. Kids seem to really like the scaled down watering wands that are available. Playing in the water has always been a temptation on a hot summer day and these offer an opportunity for a constructive way to let them do that.
The art of gardening has been somewhat lost over the last few generations. As moms worked more outside the home, and grandparents weren’t always close by, there simply wasn’t as much opportunity to pass that knowledge on. As food became more easily available, home gardens often fell by the wayside. A Victory Garden 2020 is a golden opportunity to revive and revitalize both the experience of working together as a family, teaching little ones how to garden, and about where their food comes from.
Gail Vanik can be reached at 970-565-8274 or by email at [email protected].