Starting a backyard garden is not only a great way to provide fresh, healthy food for your family, it’s a chance to get them outside — working together — toward a common goal. From the breaking of ground through final harvest family gardening sows memories that will last a lifetime. And working in the garden — planting, weeding, feeding, and harvesting — is a fantastic way to deepen appreciation for the food we eat.
With Spring just around the corner, it’s time to start your garden planning. See below for our favourite tips for getting started!
1. Start Small
While not hard, gardening has its challenges. To avoid becoming overwhelmed and discouraged it’s best to start small. Whether you have a 10×10 raised bed or a just few containers on your deck if you start with good soil and access to sunlight and water you’re almost guaranteed a bountiful harvest.
As your family becomes more experienced in the garden you can expand the garden as much as space, and desire allows.
2. Plan Simple
In the first few years, especially if your kids are still young, it’s a good idea to choose hearty, kid-friendly plants to grow. Beans, peas, strawberries, carrots, lettuces, onions, potatoes, zucchini, peppers, greens, and most herbs are all good choices for beginner gardens.
And as you learn more, and your kids get older, you can start to add new crops to the mix, and see what works best for you and your family. A little trial and error is all part of the fun!
3. Work as a Team
From planning to planting, through daily upkeep you should approach your garden as a family project — everybody gets involved.
Let each family member choose one plant they want to grow, and decide on the rest of the crops as a group. They’ll be more likely to stay interested if they feel some ownership in the garden.
Depending on how big your garden is planting might take a day or two, but even a small plot can be time-consuming. From prepping the soil to planting the seeds, and everything else in between there’s a job for everyone no matter how young or old.
Create a schedule of regular tasks — weeding, feeding, watering — and make sure everyone does their part to keep the garden healthy and growing. And try to ensure that at least once a week you’re all in the garden working together — after all those moments are where your memories are made!
4. Celebrate Your Harvests
When harvest time comes around get the whole family involved. And once you’ve harvested everything it’s time to celebrate the fruits of your labour. Make a feast and enjoy it together in thanks — and in honour of all your hard work. If crops were abundant share them with neighbours, and friends, or donate the excess to a food bank or community kitchen and spread the love even further. And start planning again for next year!
Robyn McNeil is a Nova Scotia-based freelance writer, bartender, and assistant editor of the Whole Family Happiness Project. She lives in Halifax, with her son and a penchant for really strong tea, yoga, hammocks, and hoppy beer.
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