Several years ago we moved into our house, and we wound up having the previous residents’ vegetable garden filled in. My husband had never held a spade or planted anything in his life, and I was too busy with a toddler to even think about taking care of a garden by myself.
Then, a year later, we both read Michael Pollan’s “In Defense of Food”, and it motivated us to change how we ate. We are eating more fresh foods (and cutting out foods from a box), and we think about where our food is coming from.
Growing our own vegetables in our backyard cuts the time it takes for the food to be harvested and get to our table, which means that the vegetables will retain more of their nutrients when eaten.
So, we found ourselves creating a new vegetable garden (yes, close to the one we had filled in a couple of years prior. Eek.). Our goal was simple: to grow our own vegetables, and here we were doing it in our nation’s “Garden State”…
To start, we bought some little indoor planters with tall clear plastic lids to start our seeds ahead of time. I gave my daughter a say in what we planted. Her choice was orange peppers.
My husband loves kale, so we made sure we had that on our list, and I added eggplant, carrots, chard, beets, cucumbers and sunflowers. The sunflowers were to make our garden look pretty.
The actual planting of the seeds became a group effort with Sarah and her cousins one weekend. The kids had fun planting and watering the seeds. Then, we placed them in front of a sunny window, and Sarah and I maintained the watering until they were ready to be planted in the ground.
To watch the seeds grow into little plants was fun for my daughter. But, when the day came to plant, we donned full gear – floppy hats to keep out the sun, rubber boots and gardening gloves (hers had Dora the Explorer on them).
Sarah helped me dig the holes, and I was responsible for adding the plant fertilizer and water. Then, we would put the plants in the holes, and Sarah enjoyed packing down the earth around the plants. Her confidence increased with each plant she planted.
The garden became a fun place for Sarah to play in the dirt. She pretended to dig for dinosaur bones or filled up her little watering can to help water the plants. She observed bees on the flowers. She watched the vegetables grow on the plants, and she became a great spotter of cucumbers amongst the leaves.
We also added some plants that we didn’t grow from seed: yellow squash, parsley, basil, tomatoes and marigolds. I won’t count the cabbage and brussels sprouts because they never made it.
Yellow squash became my daughter’s favorite summer vegetable because she got to pick it and then eat it soon afterwards. She also started eating the kale that we grew thanks to a recipe for Crispy Kale that a friend, Mara, gave us that was a hit!
And although not her favorite, she ate cucumbers and eggplant that summer – and I know that wouldn’t have happened had she not picked them herself!
My husband, who is a very picky eater, began eating grilled eggplant when we found ourselves with an eggplant bumper crop. And, during the summer while I became preoccupied going through IVF and was newly pregnant, he took over the weeding and the daily watering to keep our garden going.
It became a family project. We all cared about it, we all learned something and we felt more in tune with the Earth and nature.
Yes, the beets weren’t as sweet at the ones at the store, I impatiently tried to start my carrots in containers indoors instead of put them directly into the ground and they looked like anything but carrots, the chard was a bit too bitter and the cucumbers had WAY too many seeds in them. Mistakes were made.
We have a lot to learn! But, we’re motivated to try again this year because not only has gardening become a fun project and expanded my family’s taste in vegetables, it has been one that has brought us closer together.
Do you garden? What do you grow? Is everyone in your family involved?
Photo credit to Veronica Samuels.
For more on gardening on World Moms Blog see also Courtney Cappallo’s, MASSACHUSETTS, USA: How The Garden Grows.