Here's the problem: how can I do the 30-Day Outdoor Challenge without doing a post about tending a veggie garden? So to make up for my failings, I invited my friend Jodi Stemler to guest blog again this month. She is the ultimate gardener and is the only mom I know who has a child who eats artichokes AND Brussels sprouts. You don't believe me? You absolutely must read her post to learn how she accomplished such an amazing feat. Thank you, Jodi!
Digging in the Dirt
At my daughter’s five-year well-child visit, her pediatrician asked her what her favorite food was.
“Artichokes,” she responded, completely unprompted. Her doctor looked at her and then me somewhat aghast.
“Ask her what her second favorite is,” I responded.
“Brussels sprouts,” she said.
I kid you not, this was a true conversation we had just a couple of months ago. Now don’t get me wrong, she can be plenty a picky eater on certain things, but vegetables she absolutely loves. I’m not an expert on kids’ eating habits with only mine as an example, but I’m pretty sure that one big reason for her loving her veggies is that my family gardens.
Since she was very little she would go out with her grandpa to dig up carrots or pick green beans. Now at our house we have a small raised garden bed and she is involved throughout the gardening process. I was raised the same way (it’s my dad’s expansive garden she gets to pick from year ‘round thanks to a hoop house) and I’m sure that’s why I love my veggies.
So here are a few thoughts for those of you itching to tap into your inner “locavore” and make the effort to grow some of your own food and hopefully encourage your little sprouts to nosh on some greens. I can’t promise results like my daughter, but I can guarantee that they’ll love to get their hands in the dirt.
- Square foot gardening – this is a simple, understandable approach to maximize what you can grow in very small spaces. The author has details about how to build raised beds, how to mix your soil and how to plant your plants. It’s a pretty straight-forward way of dipping your toe into the gardening pool. Start small until you get a feel for gardening and how much your family needs.
- Start planning now – seriously! Yes, the gardening season is pretty much wrapped up for this year, but you should start thinking now about where you can build a raised bed (or put pots if you don’t have a large yard). And, if construction is involved, do it now rather than potentially too late next spring. Pick up books with information about gardening in your area that will give you an idea of when to plant what. Talk to your local garden center, or call your state’s cooperative extension office.
- Get seed catalogs – BUT remember that you’re planting in a very small area and for many plants, it doesn't make sense to buy big seed packets. Plants like lettuce, radishes and carrots are easy seeds to plant directly into your garden and you’ll plant lots of them. But for things like tomatoes, squash or cucumbers, you might find it easier just to buy one or two starter plants at your local garden center. Trust me, no matter how much you like zucchini, you will probably only want one plant!
- Get your little ones engaged at every level – have them help pick out what will be in your garden and have them help with the work! There are some things like lettuce mixes that even the littlest hands can help plant (all they really need to do is scatter out bunches of seeds). Ss they get older, they can help with more detailed planting or digging. Mine LOVES to put worms from past fishing trips (fodder for another column) into the garden.