The Joy of Growing Food

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grow your own foodFruits, vegetables, and minimally processed foods are the cornerstones of a healthy diet. Growing your own food or exposing your children to how food is produced is key to developing curiosity, appreciation, and respect for the environment and good nutrition.

If you have your own garden at home, involve your children in age-appropriate activities. Even the youngest child can help plant seeds or seedlings and harvest those fruits and vegetables as they grow. Older children can help prepare the soil and be granted responsibility for monitoring growth, controlling weeds, and watering.

Remember, make it fun!

  • Teach about the environment and the importance of seasons. Discuss what happens to the earth in the spring, summer, fall, and winter.
  • Choose easy plants such as radishes, carrots, squash, tomatoes, lettuces, peas, beans, and flowers. Many seeds can be directly sowed into your garden, or you can plant seedlings.
  • Discuss the wildlife around your home. Talk about common bugs, insects, and worms and their role in the garden. Consider welcoming local birds by offering a birdbath, bird feeder, and/or a birdhouse in your yard.
  • Discuss weeds and how to control them. It can be fun to pluck weeds!
  • Consider composting at home
  • Have them draw a chart of the garden and label everything planted. Keep these charts on file for future garden plans.
  • Get kid-sized gardening tools. Be sure they are good quality tools so they can productively work. Items such as gardening gloves, hand shovel, hand fork, and a watering can are essentials.
  • After the growing season, teach how to prepare your soil for next year. You may refer to my previous article Prepping your Home Garden.

If you do not yet have a home garden, you still have time to create one. You can choose a small, sunny spot in your yard, grow in large gardening pots, or perhaps repurpose an old sandbox into a raised bed garden. The Farmer’s Almanac is a great resource for beginning a home garden. 

If you do not have time or space for gardening at home, perhaps get involved in a local community garden. You can locate nearby community gardens online or by contacting your village or town office directly. Visiting nearby farms or even frequenting farmers’ markets can be an educational experience.

The growing season is the ideal time to expose your children to the wonders of planting, growing, and harvesting fruits and vegetables. It is a good way to learn and teach about the environment and how energy is created from the sun, water, soil, and plants. Essentially this is what makes life go around.

Learning about growing food firsthand will solidify your child’s understanding. Many children who grow up in an urban environment frequently think that fruits and vegetables come from a grocery store and do not realize they come from the earth. The best education comes from experience. Enjoy the spectacular growing season ahead and have fun eating fruits and vegetables!

Do you grow your own food?

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Ina is a Registered Dietitian with a Bachelors of Science in Nutrition & Dietetics from New York University and a Masters of Science in Nutrition Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She is also a Certified Dietitian Nutritionist as recognized by the State of New York Education Department and holds a New York Department of Health Certificate in Food Protection. As a Mom and Registered Dietitian, Ina is passionate about good food and healthy living. Her philosophy on nutrition is science-based yet open and fun. Visit Ina at http:// www.square-plate.com