Growing Families Together: Start a Garden on Father’s Day
Warming temperatures and sunshine make time spent outdoors more inviting as we continue well in to spring. Many families are looking for new opportunities and ways to keep their growing children healthy and happy during these challenging times. Why not start a garden this Father’s Day weekend? Whether or not you have ever had the experience of planting a vegetable garden think about some of the benefits this may have for you and your family:
Getting your veggies: Encouraging children or even adults to eat the recommended servings of vegetables daily can often be a difficult task. Some children are reluctant to try new foods enough times to become more accepting of the flavors and textures, especially when it comes to vegetables. Trying new foods together as a family can be a fun and rewarding way to encourage a healthier diet. Let your children help decide what types of vegetables to try growing in your garden. Working together to care for your growing crop makes the finished product rewarding for everyone. Children will be excited to see the vegetables they have helped to grow, and you may find that they are more willing to try them at the table. Offer them freshly picked and washed right from the garden or washed and cooked in multiple ways such as grilled, boiled or roasted. Each method of preparation offers different flavors and textures.
Saving money: Another benefit to growing your garden of vegetables is saving on the cost of purchasing them at the grocery store, where the cost of fresh veggies can add up. Freshly picked vegetables from your garden can arrive on your plate retaining all of their quality and nutrients. This is also a benefit of buying produce at your local farmer’s market where produce is grown at nearby farms.
Learning together: Gardening is a great way to talk to your children about the great outdoors, and how we can do our part to take care of the land. They will be amazed to see what started out as small plants or seeds become mature vegetables ready for picking and eating. Learning about growing food is also an opportunity to share appreciation for the many people that work in agriculture who harvest food for our tables every day.
So, how does your family get started? Start with finding a sunny location in your yard. Most plants need at least six hours of sunshine per day to grow well. Choose which vegetables you would like to start with. Some popular garden vegetables to grow at home are tomatoes, peppers, carrots, beets, green beans and radishes. Most vegetables are annuals, which means they need to be planted every year in the spring. Sometimes you may be able to grow them in several batches over the warm months, as with lettuces and green beans. If you do not have a yard or a sunny outdoor location, consider growing a few herbs (like cilantro, mint, basil and chives) in pots on your doorstep or in a sunny window.
It is OK to start out small and learn as you go. It is OK if your children try the vegetables and find they like some and not others. The whole family will benefit by learning together and building healthy eating habits. Happy Father’s Day!
—LCH Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist Linda I Johnson RD, LDN, CLC