Spring is so close you can almost taste all those fresh berries and veggies that follow. I love living in a place that gives us a fairly long growing season. For the record we are in Zone 8. With a last frost date of April 1st and first frost date of December 1st. These dates will vary a week or two so it’s important to watch the weather before planting. The good news is you can always start seedlings indoors or in the luxury of a greenhouse. ETX is all about encouraging people to plant their own garden or take advantage of local Farmers Markets.
We always had a garden growing up. Sometimes they were small in scale with a few tomato and bell pepper plants. Other times we had a full scale pumpkin patch. As an adult I was often forced to container garden because we didn’t have an outdoor space conducive to planting in the ground. One thing that remains a constant is how much kids love to garden. Now I know there’s always exceptions but in general kids like to play in the dirt, watch something sprout, grow and mature and are even more likely to try different veggies if they have a hand in growing them.
Kids are at a disadvantage in a lot of areas and it’s not surprising that they think food comes from the grocery store. Here in ETX kids are exposed to agriculture and farm life much more than those growing up in more metropolitan areas. That has started to shift with more focus on community gardens, Farmer’s Markets and container gardening becoming increasingly popular. I think folks are really trying to be more self sufficient, save money and be mindful of what is in their food.
Whether you are planting on a small scale or you have acres to contend with I hope you use this opportunity to get kids involved. If you have the space consider planting a children’s garden. Beans can climb and cover a homemade teepee or fort to provide shade. Corn mazes don’t have to be large scale to provide entertainment. Giant sunflowers are awe inspiring and provide delicious food for local birds and wildlife. A butterfly and hummingbird garden give enjoyment to the whole family. You can even order caterpillar kits and watch them change into butterflies to be released in your garden. Build a pollinator house or buy one from your local Tractor Supply store. When children see an insect’s life cycle and the role it plays in growing our food you are helping your child see a much bigger picture.
Tending to a garden can be therapeutic too. It’s an activity you can do with all ages and there is always something to learn. For younger children gardening increases fine motor skill development by digging, planting and watering. Out of the dirt this will help with writing, cutting and typing. Giving kids their own plants to take care of encourages patience, responsibility, nurturing and self confidence. You can use the opportunity to learn more about nutrition and put this into practice with planting a “Pizza Garden” for instance.
Some other great plants for kids include; cherry tomatoes, carrots, pumpkins, mini watermelons, and blueberries. Get creative with plants markers by letting the kids decorate popsicle or paint stir sticks then use a Sharpie to write what you planted. Repurpose old boots as containers for herbs. Decorate some stepping stones or add some dinosaurs or fairies in your garden.
If you simply don’t have the space or the time all is not lost! Support your local growers by visiting one of the many Farmers Markets. Almost all of the local nurseries put on informative talks like, Butterfly and Hummingbird Gardening 101. Take advantage of farm and garden tours hosted by locals. Even if you aren’t in the gardening game it doesn’t mean you can’t compost or offer a little watering station for birds and bees in the summertime. Whatever you decide we would love to see what you are up to. Share your gardening adventures with us on our FB page. The best part about gardening with kids is the fact they are learning so much and it doesn’t even feel like work.