Family Gardening is a wonderful experience for parents and kids alike. And it’s easier than you think! Read these basic tips for family gardening so you can get started on your own beginner’s garden this year.
Good, hard work that ends in healthy, delicious food…what a great investment of your time. Teaching your kids about how food grows and allows them to get their hands dirty…all the better!
I’m fairly new to gardening. We started four years ago when we moved into our home. Even though I’m not an expert on how to grow the best produce, I DO want to say it’s easier and more possible than I ever thought! If you’ve ever wondered if you should try it, you should totally give it a shot!
There are many great sites out there to help beginners learn how to go about starting a garden, but today, let’s focus on WHY growing a garden is great for the whole family, and some tips to help get you started.
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Benefits of Family Gardening
Here’s a list of the Top Reasons why I’ve loved having a garden:
- Teaching your Kids
Gardening is a wonderful teaching tool to help your kids get outside, perform certain chores (like watering and weeding), and to learn how food grows.
- Basics of living
I love the idea that I know how to do things myself, and my family is learning, too. You never know if you’ll need these basic skills someday, so it’s important that we learn how to do them ourselves without being fully reliant on other people or stores.
- Watching God’s Beauty
There are so many little miracles around us that we are too busy to appreciate. Planting a garden and patiently watching it grow seems to slow life down and appreciate these gifts God gives us.
- Eating Yummy, Fresh Produce
You would think this would be at the top of the list, but for me it’s not. Don’t get me wrong, we do enjoy our veggies and fruits as we get them, but it’s not the primary reason I enjoy growing a garden (although my husband would say this is #1). As you learn and grow different things each year, you’ll enjoy the fresh produce more and more, and you’ll come to enjoy food out of the garden way more than what you can buy in a store.
What better way to encourage your family to eat a healthier diet than growing your own food? If you have picky eaters, they may come around to trying new food as they spend time caring for it. My husband and I try our best to eat healthy each day and there are so many health benefits to eating fresh, local produce!
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I was unsure if anything would grow the first year we started. I thought if we did one thing wrong that nothing would grow (sometimes the directions on the seed packets seem overwhelming).
To my surprise, there were plenty of vegetables that grew and grew, and we’ve always had more than enough (of most things) to share! Some things won’t grow as well as you’d like, but it’s all a learning experience each year.
There are many types of gardens for each home/yard size. Here’s some basic info about my garden:
- About 12’x14’
- Rabbit fence around the perimeter with wooden stakes
- Small walking path in the middle for kids to step on
- Plenty of sunshine
- Not near a water source but we drag our hose across the yard (We wanted the best spot for full sun, but if you have the option to be near a hose, that would be very helpful.)
Family Gardening Basics – Tips for Beginning Gardeners
If you feel limited on time, space, or energy, there are lots of options for different sized gardens to suit your needs. Here are some key factors I’ve learned that are important to keep in mind.
We choose vegetables & fruit that we love to eat first, then we choose vegetables & fruit that keep well in the freezer (so we can use them throughout winter- zucchini and tomatoes freeze well and grow like crazy for us).
After we get those picked out, we choose a couple new varieties that we haven’t done before. It’s fun and interesting for my kids and I to watch how new (to us) plants grow and figure out if it’s worth growing them every year.
There are many programs that help you map out your garden ahead of time to put certain plants together. I’ve read about these in previous years, but don’t worry too much about it anymore.
For me, if they grow well, great! If they don’t do so well, we adjust the next year. You can put as much time into researching this as you’d like.
We do draw ourselves a map of what is where in our garden after we are done planting.
This helps us remember where plants are while the plants are still small, it gives my oldest a job she enjoys (drawing out the garden and labeling), and we can keep the plan for future reference.
Must Have: Garden Tools Kit
Read Also: Tips for a Healthier Family Lifestyle – Small changes can add up big over time as you try to create a healthy family lifestyle. Try some of these tips I’ve learned to set you on the right track.
If you’re limited on space, you could try gardening in pots or containers. These can fit on a balcony or outside your back door. Just make sure you pay attention to how much sunlight your plants need in order to grow properly.
If you have plenty of yard space like I do, you can choose whether you’d like to do raised garden beds (build on top of the ground, less concern about weeds) or till up your soil and plant right into the ground (which is what we do).
We considered building raised beds, but decided that the cost of filling in all the new bags of garden soil was too much for a good-sized garden.
The initial set up and planting takes us a couple evenings. Our garden is about 12’x14’ and we have 10 different types of vegetables this year.
It took my family and I one evening to prepare our garden space. This included clearing out anything left over from last year, picking up rocks, raking, and tilling the soil. We also set up the rabbit fence, which probably takes the most time for us.
The next night, we planted our little vegetable and fruit plants (already grown into small plants). I found every kind I was looking for at Wal-Mart but there are many stores where you can buy them.
Then we planted the seeds. It felt like it went quickly. I’ve learned to not worry too much about what plants are next to what. You’ll learn as you go where you like things. For instance, our cucumbers grow like crazy so I like to put them on the edge of the garden and use wire cages for them to grow on.
Once your garden is planted, all it takes is watering most days (if it hasn’t rained and when the soil seems dry). Small gardens take just minutes each day to take care of and larger gardens may take 10-15 minutes per day.
It has been so rainy in Illinois this spring that I have only had to water once in a few weeks since planting. The only other things we do from time to time is weed and add plant food to help provide the soil with nutrients.
Best Plants for Beginning Gardeners
My favorite/best producing plants:
- Green beans
New plants we’re trying this year:
Not my favorite:
- Brussels sprouts- these took a long time to grow, didn’t produce much, and were a lot of work to prepare
- Carrots- might just be our soil, but they stopped growing down and were very small
Links to resources I’ve found helpful:
Next Steps for your Family Garden
If you’ve ever thought about growing your own vegetables and fruit, I recommend starting a garden this year! Family Gardening Together is an incredibly rewarding experience for you and your family to learn and have a fun project to work on together.
You may run into some challenges along the way but that’s ok because it’s all about the experience and learning as you go. I’m fairly new to growing my own, but we’ve loved it more each year!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my Tips for Beginning Gardeners. Don’t forget to involve your kids and let them take pride in growing their own food!