Growing up in the Garden: Involving your kids in the fun
Want your children to know where their food really comes from? Let them get their hands dirty in the garden! Longtime homesteader, gardener and chef Aimée Wimbush-Bourque and her children Noah, 9, Mateo, 7, and Clara, 3, grow all kinds of vegetables, herbs, and fruit in their backyard. Aimée shares tips, recipes and stories on her blog SimpleBites and also in her new cookbook, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars. Here’s how she does it:
What’s the best way to teach kids about gardening?
We started with planters on a patio. I grew things they enjoyed eating, so it would hold their interest: cherry tomatoes, lettuce and even though we didn’t have a lot of space, we planted a big pumpkin plant.
If you have small children, don’t grow root crops. Grow something above the ground that they can see. Anything in the vine family is fun for kids, because it grows really, really fast, and they can see the progress. Cucumbers are great, because you can just pick them and eat them. Things that change color are good, like peppers. When they’re a little older, you can grow carrots and potatoes.
How do you make use of a small space to grow veggies?
Vines can all be trained to climb; you can stake a pole near a balcony rail or fence. You can plant green beans in pots that max out at two feet tall. Strawberries do really well in hanging baskets. If you have space for one raised bed, that can work.
Have any tips for keeping squirrels from munching your produce?
We plant nasturtiums and marigolds – which are very peppery – around our tomatoes. That keeps pests out of the garden.
In your book, you talk about lessons kids can learn from the land.
We’re not in control of our destiny or the weather. Sometimes, bad things happen. You can let it ruin your day or see the silver lining. When our neighbor’s tree fell, we lost our garden, but the next year, we had much more sunshine, so our garden produced almost double. We were able to say, don’t give up, have perseverance and patience.
What else does growing food teach children?
Once they’ve turned some soil and dug for potatoes and realize how much labor – time, water and weeding – goes into producing vegetables, they see it go from seed to plate. They take great pride in what they’ve grown, and won’t leave half their food over!
Photos: © Tim and Angela Chin