Tag Archive for fruits and veggies

Why Garden with Kids?

The excitement of harvesting!

The excitement of harvesting!

At Little Sprouts, we spend a lot of time in the garden. What’s the point? Why go to all the trouble? Well, for me, the main reason is that it’s fun. But there are so many other important reasons. I believe that our food supply is getting way too scary. Our grocery store food is so full of chemicals, pesticides, and so genetically modified that our dinner is more like a science experiment than a meal. And what is that doing to our children’s bodies? I don’t even want to think about it. But how can I serve food I feel is safe? The best way is to grow it myself.

A big harvest!

A big harvest!

*Obesity is running rampant in our country with childhood obesity rates climbing in epic proportions. And we know exercise and plenty of fruits and vegetables in our diet helps control obesity, right? The garden is just that, a place full of healthy things to eat and lots of opportunity for movement. Other diseases are on the rise for children as well and it’s been proven in study after study that a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables helps reduce the risk for many illnesses such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and heart problems. But it’s not always easy to get children to eat fruits and vegetables. For me, this is especially true if I have a day care child that eats mostly highly processed foods at home. Processed foods are not only full of chemicals, but they are very high in salt and sugar which dull the taste buds of the people who consume them. So fruits and vegetables may not taste strongly enough for those children to enjoy eating them. But children are 80% more likely to try a food they grew themselves. And they are even more likely to want to try something they helped prepare or cook. So growing our own food and letting the kids help cook it is the best way to get kids to try something new they wouldn’t otherwise. Hands on is the best way for people to learn anything, so it makes sense that the more hands on the kid’s meals are, the more they will be interested in them.
*The flavor of freshly picked produce far exceeds that of produce that was picked across the country or world and shipped to our grocery stores. The time it sits in boxes in the truck traveling is time that it’s loosing nutrition and flavor. In addition, the kinds of veggies and fruits that will ship well aren’t always the variety that is tastiest. Here, we don’t have to worry how our heirloom tomatoes will ship, we just have to worry about carrying them into the kitchen 50 feet away.
I have seen kids each year we’ve been growing food come in as a new student in the fall and not eat much of anything I serve, but by Christmas time they are trying many new things. And usually by the time they leave here they eat far more variety of healthy choices. You have to be patient with them and let them try at their own pace though. Don’t badger them to try it, just offer it and see what happens. A new food must be introduced 11 times before it is no longer new, so be prepared to continue to offer it and don’t give up. Their good health is worth it!
So besides making their bodies healthier when they eat healthy produce and get the physical activity working in the garden provides, what other benefits are there to gardening with kids? The garden is an amazing place full of learning for all of us. I could never list them all. There are a myriad of sensory experiences in the garden. Think about the way a tomato plant smells, or a fresh cantaloupe. Obviously there are a diversity of flavors that come from the garden. The feel of a prickly okra plant or a soft leaf of an herb. Listening in the garden brings a multitude of amazing sounds. You can hear birds chirping, the wind blowing through the leaves and stems of the plants. It’s almost overwhelming to think of all the colors, shapes, and interesting things there are to see in the garden. The more our senses are stimulated the more we learn, even as adults.
*We learn math in the garden. We count seeds, and veggies, we measure how tall our plants are, or how much water they need. We measure how close together seeds need to be or how deep they should be planted. We sort seeds by size and color and shape. We count how many peas are in a pod or seeds in a tomato. We read seed packets, make garden markers and learn a plethora of vocabulary including entomology, botany, germination, metamorphosis, life cycle, and the list goes on and on. The science in the garden is immeasurable. We learn how a seed germinates, how strong a seedling can be, how insects and wind pollinate. And we watch caterpillars hatch and grow and change into butterflies, we learn about beneficial and harmful insects. We learn about what animals do in the garden. We learn about animal and insect habitats and life cycles.

Yummy peas!

Yummy peas!

I am amazed every day at what I personally learn in the garden, and teaching the kids these things is one of my greatest pleasures. Plus I know I am teaching them skills they can use throughout life. I have heard countless stories from my day care parents about how the kids were identifying butterfly species for them at home or how they showed them which plants should be planted with other plants to keep bugs away from their crops, or how they identified a beneficial insect in the garden. It’s a great feeling to know I am teaching whole families and a future generations these things. And everything we do is 100% organic in our garden, so those organic methods are being shared as well.
It would certainly be easier to grow the garden without the kids. Things would look neater, and be more precise, but taking the time to teach them how to do it correctly is so worth the time. I’ve learned a lot of patience throughout the process and I can even see the older kids learning patience as they see the younger kids doing things that frustrate them. But we are all learning together and it’s making the world a better place.
If you work with kids in any way, I encourage you to try growing something with them. Even if you just have a five gallon bucket with a tomato plant growing in it, you will be surprised at how much you can learn and teach with just that. It is worth your time and effort, I promise!


Check out this video on gardening with kids!

What Are My Little Sprouts Growing?

Preschool Gardening, what's growing?

Come on over and take a look!…..

The new garden

The new garden

 

The old garden

The old garden

 

Starting in the front yard, this is our strawberry bed.  Don't be alarmed by the massive amount of weeding I still have to catch up on.  I already know.  :)

Starting in the front yard, this is our strawberry bed. Don’t be alarmed by the massive amount of weeding I still have to catch up on. I already know. 🙂


 

Our blueberry patch

Our blueberry patch

 

The front yard orchard including from left to right, the plum tree, two peach trees and a fig, plus in the foreground there are two apple trees and in this lovely flower planter we have 4 rosemary plants and 8 cayenne pepper plants.

The front yard orchard including from left to right, the plum tree, two peach trees and a fig, plus in the foreground there are two apple trees and in this lovely flower planter we have 4 rosemary plants and 8 cayenne pepper plants.

 

Next the tour of the expansion area. This is a small box of wildflowers to attract pollinators and beneficial insects and our pumpkin patch with a row of spinach in the front.  The spinach will burn up soon so that will give the pumpkins more room to spread, plus they will go up and over the fence.

Next the tour of the expansion area.
This is a small box of wildflowers to attract pollinators and beneficial insects and our pumpkin patch with a row of spinach in the front. The spinach will burn up soon so that will give the pumpkins more room to spread, plus they will go up and over the fence.

 

This is a row of broccoli sharing a bed with some corn that didn't germinate very well.

This is a row of broccoli sharing a bed with some corn that didn’t germinate very well.

DSCN5451

A row of artichokes, a small amaranth, and a row in front of lavender.  Lavender repels many pests such as deer, rabbits, mosquitos, and ticks!

A row of artichokes, a small amaranth, and a row in front of lavender. Lavender repels many pests such as deer, rabbits, mosquitos, and ticks!

 

The corn patch.

The corn patch.

Yellow squash and zucchini.

Yellow squash and zucchini.

Brussell sprouts and corn.  The brussell sprouts should burn up soon and give the corn more room.

Brussell sprouts and corn. The brussell sprouts should burn up soon and give the corn more room.

One of four potato bins.

One of four potato bins.

The watermelon patch with lavender.

The watermelon patch with lavender.

The herbs growing in the pergola.

The herbs growing in the pergola.

Cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower.

Cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower.

Sunflowers and marigolds for attracting birds, beneficial insects, and repelling pests.  This is one of several boxes with this.

Sunflowers and marigolds for attracting birds, beneficial insects, and repelling pests. This is one of several boxes with this.

One of two sweet potato bins.

One of two sweet potato bins.

Swiss chard with drying beans in the back up against the fence.  We planted black beans, calypso beans, and pinto beans.

Swiss chard with drying beans in the back up against the fence. We planted black beans, calypso beans, and pinto beans.

We had never tried swiss chard before but thought it was pretty. WE LOVE IT! Yummy!

Another drying bean bed.

Another drying bean bed.

Heirloom tomatoes of different varieties that we grew from seed.

Heirloom tomatoes of different varieties that we grew from seed.

A bed of kale that is taking FOREVER to grow!

A bed of kale that is taking FOREVER to grow!

More sunflowers with nastursiums.  They are beautiful and edible and draw pollinators and beneficials while repelling pests.

More sunflowers with nastursiums. They are beautiful and edible and draw pollinators and beneficials while repelling pests.

Our winter squash bed.  We are growing butternuts and acorn squash.  There is cilantro planted in here and in our summer squash and pumpkin beds to repel squash bugs.

Our winter squash bed. We are growing butternuts and acorn squash. There is cilantro planted in here and in our summer squash and pumpkin beds to repel squash bugs.

More tomatoes interplanted with radishes, lettuce, and carrots.  We also have basil in each of our tomato beds to see if it makes the tomatoes taste amazing like we read it does.

More tomatoes interplanted with radishes, lettuce, and carrots. We also have basil in each of our tomato beds to see if it makes the tomatoes taste amazing like we read it does.

Kohlrabi and more drying beans.  We don't have a trellis for these beans so we planted them with sunflowers so they can use them for support.

Kohlrabi and more drying beans. We don’t have a trellis for these beans so we planted them with sunflowers so they can use them for support.

One of five beds that don't have anything planted yet.  We put extra leaves in them to compost them down while we wait.  We ran out of time and money this spring.

One of five beds that don’t have anything planted yet. We put extra leaves in them to compost them down while we wait. We ran out of time and money this spring.

The okra bed.  Good times!  The kids are super excited about this one!

The okra bed. Good times! The kids are super excited about this one!

The monarch waystation.  Planted with seeds from a kit for giving monarchs a place to rest.

The monarch waystation. Planted with seeds from a kit for giving monarchs a place to rest.

Wildlowers to attract butterflies and a broccoli, dill bed for their caterpillars.

Wildlowers to attract butterflies and a broccoli, dill bed for their caterpillars.

Bulb fennel for butterflies to lay eggs on.

Bulb fennel for butterflies to lay eggs on.

Next, onto the older and smaller garden, we have a wagon of sage and our lettuce bed that has peas on the side and bush green beans growing up in it.  The lettuce will burn up soon.  We have eaten or shared over 25 pounds of lettuce out of this bed.  Crazy!  But fun!

Next, onto the older and smaller garden, we have a wagon of sage and our lettuce bed that has peas on the side and bush green beans growing up in it. The lettuce will burn up soon. We have eaten or shared over 25 pounds of lettuce out of this bed. Crazy! But fun!

The garlic bed with peas growing up the side and a small box of spinach that bolted while we were on vacation, so we are letting it seed out.

The garlic bed with peas growing up the side and a small box of spinach that bolted while we were on vacation, so we are letting it seed out.

Our old pear tree, it has fire blight disease and we can't trim enough of it to save it.  :(  We have harvested hundreds and hundreds of pounds of super delicious pears off this tree over the last 15 years.  So sad.

Our old pear tree, it has fire blight disease and we can’t trim enough of it to save it. 🙁 We have harvested hundreds and hundreds of pounds of super delicious pears off this tree over the last 15 years. So sad.

A barrel of carrots and a barrel of swiss chard with a gerber daisy in the middle.  He he.  Plus a bed of garlic with peas on the side.

A barrel of carrots and a barrel of swiss chard with a gerber daisy in the middle. He he. Plus the bed of garlic with peas on the side.

Our first asparagus bed, it's 2 x 4 feet and there is a barrel of zinnias growing next to it.

Our first asparagus bed, it’s 2 x 4 feet and there is a barrel of zinnias growing next to it.

A barrel of peppers plus a 3 x 10 bed of supposed to be green beans with peas on the side.  But there are some volunteer plants in there.  I'm thinking they could be cucumbers or maybe some kind of squash or melon.  They are flowering so we will see soon enough.

A barrel of peppers plus a 3 x 10 bed of supposed to be green beans with peas on the side. But there are some volunteer plants in there. I’m thinking they could be cucumbers or maybe some kind of squash or melon. They are flowering so we will see soon enough.

A bed of tomatoes with basil and a row of peas on the edge.  Someone around here REALLY likes peas...it's me.  :)

A bed of tomatoes with basil and a row of peas on the edge. Someone around here REALLY likes peas…it’s me. 🙂

One more green bean and pea combo.

One more green bean and pea combo.

The stock tank is growing arugula, some other lettuces, and a brandywine tomato plant.  There is a small 1 x 2 box of lavender and one of spinach in front.

The stock tank is growing arugula, some other lettuces, and a brandywine tomato plant. There is a small 1 x 2 box of lavender and one of spinach in front.

Our chocolate mint.

Our chocolate mint.

Two herb towers.

Two herb towers.

Some miscellaneous wildflowers, lettuce, and lemon grass.

Some miscellaneous wildflowers, lettuce, and lemon grass.

And that’s the grand tour. The largest beds are 3 x 10 feet, narrow so kids can reach the middle. The ones along the fence are 2 feet wide, so they are 2 x 2 or up to 2 x 10. The ones made of salvaged privacy fence are about 6 feet long. If you want to check out how we started the garden, click here.
I hope you enjoy it!