Benefits Abound When Kids Garden

Garden varieties

Spring is FINALLY upon us. And it’s officially garden season! Just like with reading, gardening with your kids offers benefits aplenty.

Studies show that when kids garden, it can positively impact their health, mind and spirit.

Children who grow their own food are more likely to eat fresh fruits and vegetables

Children who gardened scored higher on science achievement tests

Children who participated in a year-long gardening program improved life skills, including “working in groups” and “self-understanding.”

Gardening promotes physical activity

Go-To Gardener

Speaking from experience, we know that gardening with kids can be both rewarding and frustrating.

So, when looking for advice, we tapped the best resource we know–our neighbor friend Debbie. What makes Debbie our go-to garden expert?

First off, we’ve tasted her homemade jams and salsas, all sourced from her own garden. They’re amazing.

Criteria number two: Debbie is KNOWN for her garden. More often than not, when someone meets her, she hears, “Oh yes, I know your house. It’s the one with the GARDEN!”

Plus, she has three kids (ages 12, 10 and 6) who take an active role in the process.

Sage Advice

Thankfully, Debbie is always willing to share the fruits of her labor–cucumbers, tomatoes, watermelons. And did we mention the homemade jams?

Here, she shares some tips for gardening with kids.

Marblespark: What is a good age to start with kids?

D: I think it is child-dependent, but at 3 to 4 years old they can do all the early-stage tasks. They can pick out what they want, plant the seed or plant, water the plant.

The more involved they can be, the more rewarding I think it is.  When they were littler, I got them their own little watering cans and gardening gloves.

Marblespark: What is a good starter plant?

D: A good first plant would be one that the child likes and can benefit from when it produces the fruit or veggie.   We have had great success with cherry tomatoes, regular tomatoes, snow peas, cucumbers, hot peppers, raspberries, and strawberries.

We’ve used raspberry and strawberry plants that are bought, not from seed.  Lettuces (spinach, arugula, kale, green leaf) are great first plants for a child that likes salad. They grow quickly and you can pick what you need.

Marblespark: Kids like to see results. Which plants have you had success with in that regard?

D: Picking the right plant can be key. Tomatoes and cucumbers are hearty and produce a ton!  Watermelon was great one year not so much the next.

Snow peas are good and high-yielding. You can eat them right off the plant (which kids love). Raspberries are super-hearty but will take over an area. (They are) delicious right off the vine.

I would love to do a strawberry patch. Strawberries are perennial, as are raspberries, and will come back the next year with increased growth. The kids love to eat these fruits right off the plant.

Marblespark: Your kids seem to enjoy working in the garden? How did you get them interested?

D: I had them each pick out a fruit or veggie they wanted to grow. My oldest son usually picks cherry tomatoes. My daughter picks cucumbers and my youngest son has done watermelon.

I can start all of these from seed. I had them plant the seed and then they were responsible for watering it every day.

Once we got them in the ground they helped water, prune (tomatoes), and pick.  They did help dig the hole for their plant in the garden and then plant it and label it.

Marblespark: Have the tasks changed as the kids have gotten older?

D: My older two can prune the plants and help “train” the vining ones (cucumbers and snow peas). They mostly like to water and pick the fruit or veggie, and sometimes they dig the hole for the plants.

It’s all dependent on age and ability.  I do the fertilizer because I don’t want them touching it or getting too much or too little.

Marblespark: What benefits do you see for your kids?

D: I think it is rewarding for them to see this little seed turn into a plant producing fruit they can eat.

They get to witness the growth cycle of the plants, flowering first and then turning into the fruit.  It is a long process that they have to be patient for in order to see the fruits of their labor.

They learn responsibility, patience, work ethic.  It encourages interest in what they eat and where it comes from.  It is a family effort to keep the garden going.

Kids Garden, Kids Grow

At MarbleSpark, we’re all for anything that brings the family together, promotes healthy eating and encourages the kids to get outside and off of TVs and electronics.

So, when you’re going to pick out your container plants this Mother’s Day or attempting your first garden, get the kids involved. When kids garden, benefits abound.

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