My younger son and I just planted our garden for the year. Honestly, this has to be the best way to teach your kids about how important it is to be mindful of what we’re putting into the Earth as well as our bodies. We use organic soil, organic seeds, and organic fertilizers in our efforts of going green. We haven’t had a problem with pest control—my husband and the baby are very happy to hand pick bugs
off the plants—but if we did, there are many organic, safe pest remedies available at your local nursery, and many can be mixed at home with common household items. I let the baby pick which seeds to plant this year and he chose all the things he loves: carrots, Swiss chard, tomatoes, cantaloupe, watermelon, pumpkins (extremely giant!), and lettuce. Broccoli will go in later. We don’t have a ton of space, so the selection had to be limited, but the most important thing is to let your kids be really involved in the creation of their garden. It’s a great time to teach them about Earth Day issues like pollution and water scarcity as well as nutrition. (The reason my older son isn’t involved in this project is that he’s in school all day, and he only willingly eats carrots!)
You can start your seeds in store bought seed starters, (Burpee has an organic one where everything can be composted or recycled when you’re through.) but a really fun thing to do, and one that’s also great for the planet, is to start your seeds in egg shells. When you crack eggs to use in recipes, try to crack them towards the top so that you leave a majority of the egg shell whole. Rinse them out and save them until you have enough to start your plants. We keep ours in the carton (you can also just use the carton—separate the egg sections and bury them straight in the ground once your seedlings are ready to go outside—so that they’re easier to work with. Fill the shell with soil, drop a seed in, and add water. Keep your “pots” in a window with lots of sun, watering when the tops are dry. You can plant the egg shells directly into your garden. I like to crack them a bit so the roots don’t have to work so hard to reach the new soil. You don’t need a lot of space for your garden. We use an old bookcase that my husband built turned on its side and filled with garden soil. We put our watermelon and pumpkins in large pots and just let them go wild in the side yard. Be creative and try to reuse containers where you can.
Every day, we go out and the baby waters with his watering can. He really loves his garden and shows everyone when they come over. There’s nothing better than seeing the excitement on his face when he gets to pick vegetables that he grew from seeds. I hope this really instills a love of vegetables and healthy eating for life, but since I do have a twelve year old that did the same activity starting when he was two and now only eats healthy food under duress, I know that could be wishful thinking!
Have fun and GET DIRTY!
Contributing Author and Chef