Vegetable Gardening With Children

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I don’t often talk about vegetable gardening with children, likely because I don’t have children myself. As an outsider in that realm, my only association with children and vegetables is that the kids don’t eat them. At least that’s what the TV commercials would have you believe. So pile up the chicken nuggets and fries and … I’m not sure what else they eat, actually.

This could all be false, of course. But I do have friends with children, and they confirm that it is indeed difficult to get their kids to eat anything on their plants that happens to be green or red or orange or purple (egad, not purple food!). And my question to them is, do they garden?

You see, I was a farm kid and I knew exactly what it took to get that broccoli or green bean or squash onto my plate. I planted the seeds, helped water and weed, and eventually helped with both the harvest and preparing them for winter storage. And because I knew what it took to get those veggies to my dinner plate, I ate them. Except the peas.

Getting kids into the garden to help with the planting, care and harvest is crucial in getting them interested in vegetables as actual food. How cool is it to watch carrot seedlings grow and grow and grow all summer, and then finally pulling one out of the ground? It’s been hiding under there all season! What’s it going to look like? And then to wash it off, feel it’s skin and then take a great big bite out of it—that’s when they forget they aren’t supposed to like vegetables.

Vegetable gardening with children can be a bit like herding cats, as I’ve witnessed with members of my community garden. Their attention can be hard to hold. Expect their participation to be limited. But make it fun and doable while they are there. For instance, the Stanley brand of tools—recognized by their bright yellow handles—recently introduced a line of kid-sized garden tools, gloves and such that allow kids to participate efficiently and safely. I’ve seen kids trying to use adult-sized tools—it was scary and dangerous!

I also think that given their limited attention, indoor gardening is a great way to begin a child’s journey with vegetables. Consider the AeroGarden I wrote about earlier this year. There’s very little activity required; no weeding and virtually no pest problems to worry about. And the AeroGardens come in a variety of sizes, so even growing small tomato plants indoors is possible.

So, as you pack up your garden for winter, consider how you can get your children involved with vegetable gardening indoors.

Meet Ellen Wells

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