Starting A Family Garden
Starting A Family Garden
Starting a garden with your family is fun and exciting. In addition to planning out your garden, it is also important to be ready with ideas to help engage your little ones in the garden process. Below, we’ll give you some tips and techniques on starting your family garden and ways you can get your kids interested in growing and eating their own veggies.
What’s the best spot for my garden?
First things first…picking the best spot for your garden. Here are the things you need to think about:
- Sun: Lots of bright, sunny, sun! Check out your yard at different times during the day. Look for a spot that isn’t shaded to the south and gets 8-10 hours of sunshine.
- Water: Plants need water, and Mother Nature doesn’t always provide enough. Choose a location where you can connect to a hose or rain barrel.
- Soil condition: If you are planting right into the ground (not a raised bed), look at the ground you are going to plant in. Use a shovel to dig up some soil. Is it hard and rocky, full of clay? If so, consider what amendments (probably compost!) you will need to add to make your ground grow-able!
Now… What kind of garden should I have?
There are pros and cons to every type of garden. Ground plots are cheaper than raised beds, but are not as easy to grow in. Containers can be placed almost anywhere, but do not provide a lot of growing room. Think through all these options before making a decision:
- Raised beds: Raised beds can be built out of lumber, cinderblocks, or any other material you might be able to find. Raised beds should be at least 8” tall. Try to till under the raised bed or dig up the sod so your roots can grow down deep (never put a bottom on your raised bed). Make raised beds no more than 4’ across so that you can reach the middle of the bed from each side – never walk in your raised bed!
- Ground plot: Growing directly in the ground is a great way to get started. You can borrow or rent a tiller and do it yourself! This is a great time to amend your soil. After you have loosened the ground, add in compost and till it in. Ground plots tend to have more weeds, especially the first year after you till up the grass.
- Containers: The bigger the container, the better! Some plants, like tomatoes, need at least a 5-gallon container to have enough room to grow. 55-gallon drums cut in half work well. Make sure that containers allow for drainage. If holes are large, line bottom of container with landscape fabric or newspaper. We recommend filling your containers with a mix of soil, compost, potting mix, and perlite.
- Community garden rental plot: If you have a shady yard, have restrictions on gardens in your neighborhood, are a renter or just want to meet some people from your community, consider renting a plot at a local community garden. Be on the lookout for a local community garden near your home, school or work.
Planting and Caring for Your Garden
WHO can garden?
The whole family! There is a job just right for everyone’s skill set. Even if the youngest members of your family can’t help plant tiny seeds, kids of all ages can set a plant in a hole or give the plants a drink with a kid-size watering can. Involving everyone in the process increases interest in gardening and eating the food that you grow.
WHAT should we plant in our garden?
If you have never gardened before, start off with 3-5 vegetables. Grow things that your family really likes to eat. There are many varieties that are fun for kids.
Some of the veggies that are popular with the kids that visit our Beanstalk Garden in Kansas City include Easter Egg radishes (they turn white, red, pink and purple), Sun Gold tomatoes (bright orange) and Nasturtium (edible flowers with a little kick!).
WHEN should we plant our garden?
To figure out when to start your garden, you need to first find out when the Average Last Frost (ALF) occurs in your region. Our Beanstalk Seeds Planting Calendar references the ALF to help you determine when to plant different seed varieties based on the their ideal growing conditions. You can also check with your local extension agency or online resource for specific crop planting dates for your area.
Many of the same vegetables that you plant in spring (we call these cool season vegetables) can also be planted in the fall. When planting in the fall, check your Average First Frost (AFF) and find out when the latest date your seed can be planted before AFF. You should always look at the 10 day forecast, consider the specific needs of the crop you are planting and determine if it is too cold or too hot to plant.
WHERE do I plant my plants?
Proper spacing between plants is the key to garden success. Each of the seed packets that you purchase from Beanstalk Seeds will have spacing for ground plot planting and raised bed planting. Read the instructions carefully to make sure that you are giving your plants enough room to grow. Beanstalk Seeds offers a Raised Bed Planting Guide as well, which provides all vegetable spacing information in one place.
WHY should my family have a garden?
Increased access to and interest in eating healthy food, lots and lots of fun, physical activity, learning about the environment, teaching a valuable life-skill, good family memories, and many, many more reasons!
HOW do I take care of my garden?
- Weed–Weeds are plants that require the same things (soil, sun, water and space) as your veggies. Don’t let weeds grow in your garden and compete for these resources. Pull weeds while they are small and before they have seeds.
- Water–Water new seeds and small seedlings with a fine breaker often (every 1-2 days) as seeds need to stay moist to germinate. Water established plants 1-2” deep, and less often (2-3 times per week).
- Thin–Make sure to give your plants the room they need to grow by thinning out any seedlings that sprout too close to each other. Pull the seedlings out. BONUS: You can wash these seedlings and make a miniature salad.
- Mulch–Mulching your garden with cotton burr compost, straw or untreated grass clippings keeps the soil moist and the weeds suppressed. Mulch 1-3” around established plants. Don’t mulch over seeds and small seedlings… wait until the plants are at least 4” tall.
- Support–Give the plants the support they need to grow tall and strong. Cage or stake your tomatoes and give vining crops, such as cucumbers, pole beans, peas and vining flowers a trellis to climb up.
- Harvest – Eat what you grow! Watch your garden closely to make sure that you pick your produce at the ideal time. Vegetables like zucchini, beans, okra and cucumbers can go from just right to way too big in just a couple of days.
Garden projects are a fun way to excite the whole family about growing food in the garden. From art projects to make the garden a creative and beautiful place, to indoor garden activities to get a jump on the gardening season, there are many ways to add extras into your garden!
- Plant Markers – One of the most creative ways to add an extra touch to your garden is to make creative plant labels using paint, scissors, glue and any of your other favorite craft materials. Allow your children to paint pictures of the vegetables or write the names of the vegetables themselves. Or, paint the names on rocks and place near the base of the plant.
- Keep Away Furry Friends and Birds – Place bright and shiny objects in the garden that will make noise and will ward off four legged friends that like to eat yummy vegetables. Pie tins, pin wheels, and tinfoil creatures are just some ideas. This also adds extra character to your garden.
- Recycle Household Items – Use recycled materials such as milk jugs and yogurt containers (holes punched in the bottom of both) to water your garden, use shredded newspaper to mulch your garden.
- Add Color to your Garden – Add extra color to your garden by painting trellises, tomato cages, and any other structure in your garden with bright, fun colors.
- Scavenger Hunt – Make a game out of finding weeds, beneficial insects and harmful insects in the garden.
- Add Garden Responsibilities to Chore Charts – Just like making beds and picking up toys, garden jobs (pulling weeds, watering, and mulching) can be a part of a weekly responsibility chart.
- Spend Family Time in the Garden – Use the garden as a picnic space for snacks and meals, or to have quite reading time.
Family Cooking from the Garden
Eating the food that your family grows in the garden is one of the best rewards of gardening. After you spend your time tending to the garden, take the time to enjoy the rewards of fresh, homegrown produce. Eating fresh from the garden is easy. Include the whole family in the preparation and teach your children the valuable life skill of cooking from the garden.
Ten Tips to engage the whole family:
- Everyone can help harvest.
- Make weeding a contest between family members to see who can pull the most.
- Go “shopping” in the garden for mealtime essentials. Plan your meal around the garden.
- Kids can help wash and scrub produce.
- Engage kids in the recipe selection using items from the garden.
- Wash and prep easy to eat items such as peas, carrots, cucumbers so they are ready for snacking at any time.
- Engage kids in mixing, tearing, pouring, mashing, rolling.
- Engage older kids in measuring items and using math in the kitchen.
- Use up extra produce by freezing or canning for later consumption.
- Challenge family members to eat a rainbow with a variety of colorful fruits and veggies on every plate.
Now it’s time to eat! Here are some quick and easy recipes that your kids will love:
Green Leaf Dip
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
- 3 cups thinly sliced kale or chard leaves
- Coarse salt
- 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese or yogurt
- Pinch red-pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add garlic and greens of choice and season with salt. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Let cool.
- Transfer to a food processor. Add cottage cheese and puree until smooth. Season with pepper flakes and lemon juice.
- Serve with fresh vegetables or crackers.
Smoothies are a great quick breakfast or snack food. They’re also very easy to add nutrient dense greens to your meals. They can be versatile including many different fruits, liquids, and healthy fats.
For two servings, chose one item from each row of the following chart. Blend in a high power blender and enjoy. Add ice if you like it extra frosty!
|Healthy Fat (optional)||Avocado, nut butter, ground flaxseed, chia seed, hemp seed|
|Flavorings (optional)||Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, vanilla, unsweetened cocoa powder|
|Greens 1-2 cups||Spinach, kale, chard, collards|
|Fruits & Veggies 1-2 cups||Fresh or frozen: banana, berries, peaches, mango, cucumber. Cooked: sweet potato, pumpkin, butternut squash, acorn squash|
Up to 2 cups
|Milk, water, coconut water, unsweetened nut milk or coconut milk|
YIELD: 18 servings
PREPARATION TIME: 25 minutes
Ingredients for the Slaw:
• 4 cups broccoli florets
• 2 medium carrots,shredded
• 2 cups red cabbage(1/4–1⁄2head),shredded
• 1/2 cup dried cranberries
• 4 chives,minced
Ingredients for the Dressing:
• 1 cup plain yogurt
• 1⁄2 cup milk
• 1⁄4 cup honey
• 1⁄4 cup apple cider vinegar
• 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- Cut broccoli florets into bite sized pieces.
- Shred carrots and cabbage.
- In a large bowl, toss together all ingredients for slaw.
- Combine ingredients for dressing in a small bowl.
- Slowly pour dressing over slaw in large bowl. Mix together untildressing has coated all of slaw.
Greek Quinoa and Spinach Salad
This tasty and filling spring recipe uses fresh spinach and green onions which are both in-season during the spring!
YIELD: 12 servings
SERVING SIZE: 1/4 cup
PREPARATION TIME: 20-25 minutes
- 1/2 cup dry quinoa,rinsed and drained
- 1 cup water
- 2 Roma tomatoes,finely chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh spinach,shredded
- 1/3 cup green onions,finely chopped
- 2 small ripe avocados or one large,chopped
- 1/4 cup feta cheese,crumbled
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Combine quinoa and water in a small pot. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 15 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.
- Transfer quinoa to a medium bowl. Add tomato, spinach, greenonions, avocado, and feta cheese; stir to combine.
- In a small bowl, whisk lemon juice, oil, and salt. Add to quinoamixture and toss to combine.
- Serve right away or chill in the refrigerator and serve cold.