Where do vegetables come from?
Apart from getting you outside for a dose of fresh air, there are lots of positives to gardening with your kids. It’s a great way to build a child’s knowledge of science as well as the the environment and it helps them get to know their veggies too. Peas aren’t from the freezer, they grow on vines!
Homegrown produce served as a snack or dished up at dinner gives kids a sense of achievement that is tangible (not to mention edible) and a greater appreciation for fresh food. It might even cure those bouts of ‘veggieitis’. Chances are if your child has planted, watered and tended an eggplant for three months until it’s ready to be eaten, they won’t run in the opposite direction.
Try and get your kids involved in all aspects of the gardening process: planning what to grow and when to harvest; preparing the soil; planting the seeds or seedlings; watering; picking and finally cooking. Their enthusiasm is spurred on by their sense of ownership of the garden project.
If vegetables are a little too overwhelming, herbs are a great place to start – they are fairly low maintenance and take up very little space – they will flourish on a windowsill. Rosemary and thyme are hardy herbs for the winter months. Their unique smells, textures and tastes can inspire a whole can of conversations.
Quick tips for gardening with kids
- Choose vegetables that grow and mature quickly. Gardening teaches patience that is an important lesson to learn, but kids are likely to lose interest if they have to wait months to benefit from the fruits of their labour.
- Beans, snow peas, cherry tomatoes and salad greens are a great place to start as they are easy to grow and mature quickly.
- You don’t need a lot of space – a ledge or sunny spot in the courtyard is all a pot needs.
What to plant now?
- April is the time to plant carrots, peas, broad beans and radishes. These are all easy to grow, mature quickly and can be used in lots of different dishes. For more ideas, check out ABC’s vegie guide.
If you believe you are not in possession of a green thumb or lack the resources to grow food at home, breathe easy. More and more schools are incorporating kitchen gardens in their grounds (if they haven’t already) and in their lessons thanks to their own initiative or Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation. Canteens have also started serving their schools’ produce as snacks or in salads. Community gardens are also bursting from previously neglected patches, and in Bilpin, kids are able to pick their own fruit straight from a tree.