Written by Dr. Caron Goode
Unfortunately, many children today do not know where their food comes from. Many would even draw a blank if you pointed to a jar of canned veggies and asked them how they ended up on the store shelf. The good news is you can change that! With the nice weather on your side, you can coach your kids to play an active role in growing their own fresh produce.
For parents who are struggling with getting their kids to eat veggies, growing a vegetable garden may provide for more than summer fun. In fact, when kids feel like they have an active role in growing their own produce, they may be more interested in eating it. One case in point was my family’s move to a new home in Virginia. My mother-in-law loved to plant, and at 75 years of age, she had vigor that embarrassed the rest of us. In our desire to help her plant snap peas and beans, spinach and melons, my two children and I found a bond to share with our wise elder. Two hours in a garden one afternoon turned into months of sharing the watering, picking and cooking our produce.
Gardening also provides an opportunity for children to learn many valuable life skills. Children can learn practical, hands-on science lessons and can learn about caring for living things, simply by planting and tending to a garden. Growing fresh vegetables also encourages healthy eating habits, which is critical during a time when childhood obesity is a national epidemic. And with the prize of fresh produce at the end, these are lessons kids won’t soon forget!
To get started producing your own produce, gather the kids and try planting these no fail veggies in your garden. If you don’t have space to start a garden in your backyard, these veggies will even grow well in a pot on your deck.
- Leafy Lettuce. Plant lettuce seeds in shallow soil, covering them with about ½ inch of soil. Water until soil is moist. Be sure to check the seed packaging so you can allow enough space in-between seeds for your lettuce to grow. Lettuce is usually ready to harvest about 80 days after planting the seeds. With leafy lettuce, simply remove the outer lettuce leaves when you’re ready to eat it so your lettuce will continue to grow.
- Carrots. Sprinkle carrot seeds on top of the soil and gently water them into the soil. Carrots need to be planted in sandy soil mix that drains well and is free from stones and debris. You’ll need to weed around your carrots often, to prevent overcrowding. Carrots also require lots of water and are ready to be picked 65-75 days after the seeds are planted.
- Radishes. Radish seeds should be planted about three inches deep, one and a half inches apart. Water your radishes until the soil is moist. Radishes are ready to eat in about one month’s time.
- Crookedneck Squash. Till soil until crumbly and fine. Squash grow best in rich soil that drains well. Make a small mound with the soil and plant 4 to 5 seeds, each one inch deep. Water seeds regularly to keep soil moist. Summer squash is ready to be harvested 45 to 50 days after planting.
- Sweet Peas. Space sweet pea seeds one inch apart and plant two inches deep in a mound of soil. Place your peas in direct sunlight and water only when the soil is dry. Sweet peas are ready 55-70 days after planting.
If you don’t mind putting in a little extra effort, most plants will benefit from adding compost or organic fungicide to the soil.
Once your produce is ready to pick, you can have a grand time creating custom made salads and snacking on fresh treats. If a love of gardening takes root, coach your kids to develop entrepreneurial skills by setting up a farm stand and selling fresh grown vegetables to family and friends. You can even coach them to barter with other gardening neighbors for veggies they haven’t yet grown.
The dirt on gardening with kids is this. More than veggies will grow when you garden with your kids. Your children will grow in their abilities to care and tend to things of the earth and in their sense of personal and global responsibility. Their sense of self-worth will also bloom with pride from a gardening job well done. Good fun in the sun! You can’t beat it.
Dr. Caron Goode is an inspirational speaker, spiritual coach, and prolific author of fifteen books. Gifted with compassion and a deep desire to assist others in expressing their passion and potential, Dr. Goode has become a well-respected leader in the parent coaching industry. She directs the Academy for Coaching Parents International that trains students in Heartwise™ parent coaching. Dr. Goode is called on by the media as a parenting and coaching expert. Most recently she has appeared in Women’s World (01-09) and Fort Worth Child magazine (01-09). Dr. Goode has shared her holistic approach to achieving parenting success and negotiating relationships. Dr. Goode holds the titles of National Certified Counselor and Diplomat of the American Psychotherapy Association.