Last year, our town opened its first community garden. They built 40 plots and offered them to the residents first come first serve for just $30! It sounded fun, but I was nervous because I've never gardened before. I'm also not "outdoorsy". My family and I are allergic to nearly everything that grows outdoors so I don't even own any potted plants. And let's just say that the landscaping around our house is nothing to brag about. I was sure that everyone else would be these amazing gardeners and our little plot would be a disgrace. But we did it anyway.
It was one of the best decisions we made. Let me tell you our story and why you might want to garden with your family this summer.
The community garden opened in April last year. We went to a nursery with Ava and Sidney (I was still pregnant with Clara) and explained our situation - new to gardening, don't know how to grow things, don't want to look like fools and lose our garden plot... They recommended some easy things to grow that we'd enjoy and advised us on how to plant it. We planted tomatoes, basil, sage, peppers and Swiss chard, which is a leafy vegetable like spinach.
My mother-in-law helped us plant everything.
We also planted marigolds, which are supposed to help ward off insects.
Ava added the finishing touch - our flower pinwheel - and then we waited to see what would happen.
Every week (sometimes twice a week because it was the hottest summer in St. Louis on record), we went to the garden to water and prune. The girls loved helping out, especially with watering.
Over the summer we met several of the other gardeners and were very surprised that they were just as clueless as we were! I felt much better once I realized that the purpose of this community garden was not to compete for who had the best gardening techniques or who could grow the most veggies. No one cared what you planted or how well it grew. The purpose was just to get members of the community together and to interact in a fun way.
Much to our surprise, our garden grew (and grew and grew)! Check out this progress:
May 16 - So much green!
May 16 - Our first sign of success, a tomato!
June 19 - The plants are taking over!
June 19 - Our first pepper was huge!
June 19 - Green tomatoes!
July 14 - Our big basil harvest
July 14 - Our big tomato harvest
I have to say, we were pretty impressed with ourselves. I don't know about Tim, but I really didn't expect much from this garden given it was the first time either of us had attempted to grow anything. Also, it really wasn't a lot of work, and the work was fun for the whole family.
Not only did we manage to grow a lot of stuff, but it also tasted good. We made a ton of pesto with all the basil we grew. Did you know that pesto freezes really nicely? We still have some pesto in the freezer today! I also learned that homegrown tomatoes are SOOOOOOO much better than store-bought. Despite the fact that I was super pregnant and having major acid reflux, we consumed every tomato we grew. They were just too good to let go to waste. Here are some recipes that I posted with the tomatoes and basil that we grew:
Aside from these obvious benefits, we got so much more out of this experience. It was fun and rewarding to garden together as a family. It was nice that the girls wanted to help out and contribute to the success of the garden. And it was really neat to know exactly where your food came from! I hope that as the years go by, this garden will open up a whole new world of food for our kids.
I was reading an article in the St. Louis Children's Hospital magazine about gardening with kids. The hospital uses horticulture as a form of therapy for some of the kids at the hospital. They mentioned many benefits for kids including:
- bonding time with parents
- building self-esteem
- nutritional and environmental awareness
- opportunity to enjoy the outdoors
- instilling a sense of pride, ownership and responsibility
If you're community has a garden, that's a great way to start, but it's not necessary. You can plant lots of things right in your backyard. Buy a large flowerpot and let your child paint it. Let your child decide what to plant so that they feel invested in the project. Some ideas are flowers, grape tomatoes, pea pods or herbs. Then help your child make some cute labels for your plants.
I also have a Gardening pin board on Pinterest with lots of useful gardening tips. Click here for my pin board.
My girls have been asking us for months when we can go back to the garden. We just got notice that we can start planting our garden this month! I'll keep you posted on our progress!