With spring comes gardening time. But, gardening is more than just a way to grow some extra food for the family. It can be a way for the family to work together and grow together. While many think that gardening requires a lot of space, a family can put in a garden in small area, and in some cases may even be able to grow a substantial amount of vegetables on a patio. Knowing where to start and how to involve the whole family is the first step to having a successful and prosperous garden.
The first thing to do is to find a plot of ground that you want to use for your garden. It doesn’t take much land to be able to plant several rows of vegetables. A 20 foot square plot can accommodate several kinds of vegetables, grown from seeds or started plants. If you have only a patio area, consider raised beds, or planters for your garden. The size of the garden is not as important as working together as a family to produce your own vegetables. Don’t be intimidated if you have never grown a garden before. It doesn’t take much to get vegetables to grow healthily.
Once you have chosen your spot, you will need to stake it out. Small wooden stakes, with twine tied between it can be used to mark the boundaries of the area that you intend to plant. After marking out the area, you will have to turn the soil to start preparing the ground for planting. This is the hardest part of the gardening process. You will need a rotor tiller to turn the soil. It may take several passes, dropping the blades a bit at a time to increase the depth of the cut. It is best to start preparing the ground a few weeks before you are ready to plant. If you plan to do organic gardening, you could till in manure and other organic matter (such as mulched leaves) at this time. Rabbit manure is a particularly good choice, as it is not a hot manure, which will burn plants. If you plan to use any other kind of manure, it must first be composted before use. Take the time early in the season to pick the vegetables that you want to plant, and purchase seeds. Buy plants within a few days of when you want to plant the garden.
After the ground is turned, and your organic matter is tilled under, you are ready to plant. This is where the whole family can help. Everyone can be a part of getting the seeds in the ground and the plants planted. Even young children will be able to give a hand, under close supervision. You will want to try and keep your rows straight, so that you will be able to walk between them, and hoe weeds. Put one wooden stake at one edge of the garden, and a second straight across from the garden from the first. Tie a piece of twine between the two stakes and then use a hoe to make a furrow between the two stakes. This will provide your first straight row. Measure 20-24 inches from the location of the first stakes, and move them to mark the second row. Continue doing this until all of your rows are set.
Now that your rows are ready, start planting the seeds that you purchased. Even small children can plant larger seeds, like green beans, or corn. Smaller seeds like okra can be planted by older children. Very small seeds, such as kale or lettuce should be planted by adults. Be sure to read planting instructions on all seeds before planting. It is important to plant seeds according to the instructions. Some plants take more space, or special accommodations to grow effectively. If you are planting plants, such as tomatoes or peppers, then you will want to follow the instructions that come with the plants.
After planting, there is still quite a bit of work that needs to be kept up with, and the whole family can participate. First, the garden must be watered. If you do not get at least 1 inch of rain per week, you will need to give it supplemental water. A water hose with a sprinkler head will work nicely, and can be handled in a small garden by children. There will also be a need to keep weeds and grass out of the garden. The first year, after turning the soil, it will be very difficult to keep grass out of the garden. You will have to be diligent to hoe the weeds and grass. Older children can use a hoe, or pull weeds by hand if you show them the difference between developing vegetable plants and weeds.
When the vegetables have grown, make sure to involve the kids in the picking process. Show them which vegetables are ready to pick, and which need to grow a little more. They will enjoy picking beans, squash and tomatoes. Some vegetables may be too high or too difficult to pick, such as corn or okra. Let them do what they can, and as they grow you can give them more responsibilities.
If you can involve the whole family, the task of gardening can be very fun and rewarding. Kids will love to help, and then watch the plants grow. They will also enjoy being able to help with the picking of the fresh vegetables. On top of it all, they will be able to eat the fresh, home grown vegetables, which will make for a healthier diet. Who knows, you may even be able to get them to try new vegetables that they never would have tried because you grew them together in the garden!