|Posted by Live Love Mom on July 14, 2020 at 9:00 AM|
by: Dr. Stephanie McEndree
It's important that kids learn at a young age where food comes from. This allows them to learn early what is edible, where to get fresh foods (such as a farm, orchard, or marketplace), and how to grow your own food. It's an important step to future self-sufficiency, and allows your children many years to perfect their green thumb and learn as much as they can. It's also the perfect way to get them to interact with nature, teaches them teamwork with you and their siblings, and teaches them patience to wait for the crops to grow.
Bring them to the store. Whether at a farmer's market, the dollar store or the grocery store, take your kids with you to purchase seeds. Show them the packages that show photos of the crops. Ask them what they would like to grow in the garden. Definitly pick up some radish seeds, as these can grow and be ready in as little as 3 weeks. Pick up some seeds of veggies and fruits that your kids enjoy and that you know you could use in your meals.
Re-use leftovers. You can plant an onion, potato, lettuce, chives, celery and garlic back into the ground. Simply soak them in water until they begin to sprout, then plant them in your garden. You won't have to buy these vegetables ever again. Show your kids how to do this and have them help you. Stumps won't ever go to waste and they will know how these foods are renewable and can be harvested many times.
Keep the seeds. For fruits such as tomatoes, apples, oranges, peaches and plums, you can save the seeds after you've eaten the fruit. Dry them out in the sun for a few days and plant them in your yard where you could use a tree. In about 5 years, the tree should bear fruit. A single tree can produce hundreds of fruit, so be sure to plant what you have an appetite for. If you live on a ranch or a farm or have a good amount of land, consider planting your very own orchard. It can even be a source of income if you advertise yourself as an orchard and pickers pay per pound. If the seeds aren't cooked, you can even plant nuts to grow nut trees.
Give a science lesson. If you want to go all out, get a soil testing kid and test the soil. Do this with your kids and show them what the results mean, and what other possible results mean. If your soil is deficient, buy the nutrients necessary and put them in the soil with your kids. Be sure to weed your garden to give ample space for your crops. If weeds are persistant and you don't mind these chemicals possibly getting into your food, you can buy some weed killers in a spray form that should kill the weed down to the root. It won't come back, but you do need to cut down some weeds as soon as they appear, such as dandelions with flowers, before the seeds get all over your garden and they keep your food from getting the sun, nutrients and water that they need to thrive. Show your kids a world map color-coded according to the zones. Show them which zone you're in and teach them the crops that are best planted in that zone. If the list is too long, tell them what won't thrive in your region.
Teach about edibles. Unless your kids have already been in the boy scouts and know how to identify leaves, show your kids which foods are edible. You can plant some herbs such as sage, basil, mint, oregano, rosemary, parsley, etc. and show your children that they are in fact edible. You can also plant lettuce, even different kinds of lettuce, to teach your kids that these are fine to eat and how to grow them. My kids just rip off a leaf or two when they are hungry and lettuce is growing in our backyard. You can also show them that dandelion leaves are also edible and can be harvested. You can also grow rhubarb and teach them that those leaves are not to be eaten, just the stalks.
Plant together. After you've weeded your chosen spot for the garden, you'll need to get rid of grass if any. Sometimes, especially around trees, some grass dies and doesn't grow back. You can transplant the grass over to those areas. Be sure to water it, as it will get some transplant shock. The reason the previous grass may have died is that the tree absorbs all the water there, so keep watering it to keep it alive. Once the grass is cleared, rake the soil. Dig the appropriate sized holes needed for the different types of seeds, and plant them with your kids. Bury them, and have your kids help with the watering. It can be added to their chores, but this chore comes with a tasty reward at the end. It also teaches them about concequences; if your kids don't water the crops appropriately, the plants will die. If they take good care of it, they will thrive. It also rewards hard work, dedication and patience, especially when it's the foods that kids like.
Harvest together. Reap what you sow together. For underground plants such as potatoes, carrots and radishes, dig around the plant to reveal to your kids the tasty treats underneath. Then, dig out the veggies and give your kids a taste. They should be very proud of their harvest. Then, rinse your bounty and cut away the bits you don't need, and plan a meal with it. Your whole family can enjoy the harvest and celebrate it's success. As for fruit, you can pick them when they are ready. I have found that birds, squirrels and other rodents seem to enjoy the fruits such as strawberries and raspberries and they eat them sometimes before they are ripe. I would suggest putting chicken wire over at least the strawberries so no one can get to them, or keeping one strawberry plant in a pot you put outside during the day and inside at night. Also, while you're at it: teach your kids how to prepare them, and some meals you can cook with what you harvested.
Plant perennials. You will only have to plant them once, and harvest them for a lifetime. I live in a 4b region, so I would suggest: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, apple trees, plum trees, rhubarb, mint and chives. All of these grow very well and have come back every year (of course the tree itself stays year round). You can always do some research on which perennials are the best for your region and are easiest to plant and care for the first year.
Got any more suggestions? Comment below!