We have had a home vegetable garden for maybe five or six years now. We don't have a big yard; our front yard is mostly paved driveway with trees and plants along the fence, and the backyard is mostly an aggregate patio with some dirt areas near the back fence. There was a large metal storage shed in the corner of our backyard when we bought our home. It added no interest to our yard and was a place to collect junk that we'd forget was in there as soon as we put it inside. So, several years back, we got rid of the shed and Nate built pretty raised planter beds on the concrete slab that had been beneath the shed. Last summer, Nate built a three-tiered planter along the fence near the first garden. It's not a huge space by any means, but I love it!
Having a vegetable garden is so great for kids and encourages the whole family to value and enjoy eating fresh produce. My kids love to go to our local nursery and pick out plants for our garden. Helping to do the planting of the veggies is an especially wonderful experience for them. Kids get to see firsthand how plants, and vegetables, grow and change. They get to pick food right from the plant and, often, just pop it into their mouth, as they do with the little tomatoes in our garden. I think that seeing how the food grows and is "harvested" in our own little garden can help children connect to the bigger agricultural picture and begin to imagine where other fruits and vegetables come from.
I've also noticed that my kids will try, and grow to enjoy, foods they might not have been interested in. I remember last summer when I would take care of my, then 1 1/2 year old, niece, Caitlyn, three days a week. We had a good crop of cherry tomatoes growing along our driveway, right next to where I'd park my minivan. Before our tomatoes began to ripen, Caitlyn would not eat tomatoes in salads, on their own, or in any manner. As the first weeks of tomato season began to pass and Caitlyn saw my kids and I grab a couple of tomatoes from the plant while we entered and exited the car, she became curious and finally tried one. Soon, she was wiping out my supply of tomatoes!My kids love to have the contents of the garden at their fingertips. This summer they spent hours playing in the backyard, picking tomatoes and washing them with the garden hose. Last week they borrowed a plastic knife and some bowls from the kitchen and cut a bunch of tomatoes in half for them to eat. Braeden likes to make "cilantro sandwiches," as he calls them, consisting of a lettuce leaf rolled up with cilantro inside. It's exciting for them to eat the food from the garden, especially if they get to pick it themselves. It's also a great element for them to incorporate into their pretend play.
This summer we have many times consumed a delectable sandwich that has now become Kaylee's favorite sandwich. We take pieces of whole grain bread and spread one piece with Wildwood Garlic Aoili and a little mustard. Then we spread avocado on the other slice. The beauty of this sandwich is the fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes and lettuce that we put on the sandwich. Yum! Top the veggies with a little sea salt and freshly ground pepper, and viola, you have a wonderful summertime sandwich. (Braeden and I like to sprinkle a little cayenne on ours as well.) Kaylee is quite excited when I make this sandwich for her school lunch in the fall when the tomatoes are still plentiful. (I make sure to keep the lettuce and tomato separate from the bread and let her assemble it herself in order to keep the bread from getting soggy.) I think I may make this sandwich for lunch now that I've been thinking about it!
Kaylee and Braeden enjoying our garden fresh sandwiches!
See our gorgeous tomatoes?
So, even if you have a small space to work with, try planting a garden with your children! It's economical, earth-friendly, educational and delicious...and your kids just might eat more veggies!