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Gardening with the Kids: Make the Most of your Family Garden

Children and parents can reap the benefits of a shared family garden. You can enjoy family time together while producing healthy fruits and vegetables. Get outdoors and get dirty! Gardening is great exercise and contributes to both physical and mental health. Raising a garden provides learning opportunities for adults and children alike.

A Family Garden: Opportunities for Learning

If you're new to gardening, try to prepare a small plot for growing a few vegetables that family members like to eat.

· A 10' x 16' garden is ample to supply food for the dinner table of a family of four.

· Check gardening books and web sites to find fruits and vegetables that are easy to grow in your region.

· Learn about tilling the soil, planting seeds or seedlings, fertilizing, and pest control.

· If you don't have a yard, check resources for information about container gardening. A patio or balcony is perfect for a container garden.

Learn about Science and Ecology

Use a garden to reinforce the science lessons that children learn in school. Gardening is the perfect hands-on experience.

· Children learn about the life cycle of plants. When they plant, cultivate, and harvest a garden, children see the life cycle at work.

· Catching worms in the garden is lots of fun, and worms show how living things work together in ecology. Understanding how fertilizer nourishes plants is another example of ecology in the garden.

· Organic gardening is good for the environment, and organic vegetables are healthy. Gardening opens the door for children to learn about healthy nutrition.

Learn to Accept Responsibility

There is always plenty of work to go around in a garden. Plants must be watered regularly. Weeds must be pulled up. Mature fruits and vegetables must be picked.

  • Divide gardening chores among children and adults in the family.
  • Toddlers can pull up weeds or catch worms.
  • Older children can take responsibility for regular watering and pruning.
  • Teens can plan the garden and help with tilling, fertilizing, and soil preparation.

Learn to Ask Questions

Gardeners love to talk to other gardeners. As children and their parents work together to raise a garden, they can learn from the experts.

  • Ask advice from neighbors or extended family members who have their own gardens.
  • Seek help from your local Cooperative Extension Service. Most locations in the U.S. have an extension office where you'll find experts who work with local gardeners.
  • Talk to growers at your local farmer's market. They have lots of experience with growing fruits and vegetables in your region.
  • Get information from experts at a local nursery or gardening center.
  • Many urban neighborhoods have community gardens. These provide excellent opportunities for socializing and sharing information with other gardeners.

Learn to Give and Share

If all goes well, you'll see a bounty at harvest time! Even a modest-sized garden plot can yield more produce than your family can consume. Children learn generosity when they have opportunities to share.

  • Give away ripened fruits and vegetables to neighbors, friends, and family.
  • Focus on sharing your bounty with elderly neighbors who are not able to tend a garden.
  • Share your harvest with a local food bank. Food banks receive plenty of canned foods, but they might not have enough fresh produce.
  • Plan your garden with sharing in mind. Plant extra rows of vegetables knowing that you will give away food to someone who needs it most.

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