7 Tips to Help Kids Grow a Garden

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Look at this happy kid's harvest

The garden is blooming here in Colorado.  It is hot and the growing season is at its peak.  It started off bad.  I never remember hail storms in July but with 3 storms that hit here my top heavy plants tumbled down each time.  The rain came fast and hard.  I thought I would never see a vegetable bloom.  But now the burst of fresh veggies and flowers are filling the vines.  Cucumbers are coming in slowly, zucchini is starting to run wild with flowers and heirloom tomatoes varieties are showing off in different colors.  Take a look below.

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Heirloom tomatoes and cucumber picked today

Perhaps others are having more of an abundant harvest, but I am grateful for these few.  They get fed and I enjoy them "perform" with "shooting" flowers.  Now you may not have such a problem and complaining about tons of zucchini coming in.  Are you saying  "I have so much squash (zucchini), I don't know what to do with it–want some?"  Maybe next year or at the end of our season I will be saying that.   Let's talk about zucchini squash here but it can be any vegetable growing in the garden.

Perhaps there is a "famous chef or chefs –your kid or kids–that one day can be making food for the President, working in a famous hotel, employed by a world known restaurant, a culinary teacher or your home chef? Let's help this child or children get to love their veggies.  Oh, if you don't have a garden, a trip to the Farmer's Market or even your local store in the produce department works.  Here's a "catch" or "harvest" from my garden.  See who is the proud helper below.

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6 year old granddaughter proud of her harvest 

Here's 7 tips to help "grow" your kids to love zucchini:

1. Plan together…

Consider the room that you have available to garden. Most squash takes up a lot of room; however, depending on the variety and your growing conditions including time determine the kind of squash you will grow with you child.   If you have more than one child, maybe have each one grow a different variety which can mean even a different color. Make it a fun project not as competition but as cooperation to help each other weed together, watch them grow together.

2.  Selecting seeds…

Which variety? So many to choose from  and that can be another challenge.  When selecting seeds make it an educational project for the child.  Take them along to help you decide which ones.  Explain that there are many varieties but seeds need the right soil and temperature.  Showing them the package of seeds, if they can read, and where to find out about the number of days it will take for the seeds to grow before it can be picked.  Purchase from local stores so you can help keep the store in business.  Focus on organic seeds. Of course you can find online seed catalogs, which I use but as a last resort as local is my goal for buying. 

3. Trade seeds and save money…

Another family? Maybe you have a friend with kids and both families can purchase seeds and share them with each other.  A great way to save money. I'm all about variety and growing things on a limited budget.  You you also split fertilizer costs.  There may be other kids that can get involved in their own project. 

4. Plant together…

What a great opportunity to play, plant and spend time with your kids.  When they grow up they don't always want to stick around with their parent, so now is the chance to build a foundation that maybe they will hang out longer with you then most kids. Also maybe you will be giving them the desire to start growing their own gardens without your help as they grow up.  Maybe they will move away and still continue the garden even if in limited spaces.

5. Water the garden – feed the plants…

Water as often as suggested on the package or your soil conditions but remember just like you like to eat so do the plants so feed them with natural fertilizers.  I have the option to use a sprinkler or hose to water the garden but there is something about holding that hose and watching the water water the plants that excites  me.  There is beauty before my eyes. 

6. Picking time…

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Silly Zucchini

The time has finally arrived.  The kids have been anxiously waiting to pick their first squash. Get the camera ready.  They are excited to pick their first squash they worked so hard to grow.  Actually squash is one of those easy plants to grow and usually big producers as well. Send their pictures to family and friends. Make one extra for yourselves.  Imagine them sitting on a coffee table as people come in and out of the doorway seeing their smiling faces?  Most veggies you grow won't be smoshed, but teach them how to identify bruised, firm or soft veggies.  Don't be afraid to compost things that just are almost ready for the trash if it stayed on the vine to late or an animal had a large meal and left you a little bit.  It happens.

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A smiley proud helper with veggie besides zucchini

7. Washing time…

With the bugs and dust in the air, it's always best to wash the freshest vegetables.  Even if it looks like there is nothing on the squash, as we are talking squash here, do wash.  I use just plain water.  If store bought save money on your budget use vinegar and water to rinse the squash. According to the University of Michigan's Extension Service wash fresh produce under clean, running water first. Adding vinegar to the mixture may kill even more bacteria. It's a great way to save money too.  I have made a solution of a little vinegar and some water.  You can also spray it on.

NOW the meal…

The meal is getting ready with the little chefs helping out.  Get the  little chefs to wash and cut up the vegetables.  If they don't get involved in the process it may not be as much fun at this point.  Have them experience cleaning up as they are go along.

MEAL ideas with zucchini

-Grate and add into salad with a dressing

-Dice and add into stir fry with other vegetables

-Oven bake in your favorite tomato sauce

DID you know…A family that eats together–stays together

The meal is done. Now how about all of you talking around the table, sharing the food and having some healthy laughs together. Ah, make the meal part of your simple healthy living lifestyle without adding stress at the table.


RECRUIT others …

Share zucchini with others and ask them if they can make some zucchini bread with it.  They probably will say yes and then you say "can you make one loaf for me too"? Gotta ask to receive and just believe for a yes. 

Reflecting and action….

Can you see how much fun planting zucchini or other veggie seeds can be?  Get the kids involved in the process and see how receptive they are to have fun without getting very dirty. Fresh is always best.  Take action by looking at seeds online, in nurseries or even hardware stores together. 

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Carol Giambri is a gardening expert. She is obsessed with the garden.  At a 12 step program she would probably stand up saying "I admit: I am addicted and obsessed with the garden and it's foods".  Playing with her raw fruits and veggies and looking for the unique shaped veggies when she shops is another addiction.   From worm composting, which is a new desire, to homemade cleaning products, eating edible weeds, coaching programs, speaking, traveling, 2 time manufacturer, city transplant to the country living, writing copy (looking to expand her services), green/recycle talk, owning dogs for over 40 years and married almost that long, she brings together the joy of simple healthy living.  She's your encourager too.  Carol plans to write several books on healthy living as well as a pet book where her heart still remains having seen so many go to heaven.

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle DeMarco August 9, 2011 at 10:22 am

I love these ideas!  I can remember growing tomatoes and zucchini in our back yard when I was growing up.  Living in the desert now poses some unique challenges but I would love to learn how to do some gardening again.

Beth Heilman August 9, 2011 at 10:40 am

What great ideas to get the kiddos involved in gardening! And your photos are beautiful. I'm thinkin' I need to find some heirloom tomatoes…yum!

Alexandra McAllister August 9, 2011 at 1:37 pm

Carol, Love all the beautiful photos and the "silly zucchini"… looks like a swan!! You must find a way to preserve that one! Great ideas! I'll be coming back for more info for sure! Thanks so much.

Scarlett Von Gunten August 9, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Great ways to include children in helping garden! I love when you said, "A family that eats together–stays together! The meal is done. Now how about all of you talking around the table, sharing the food and having some healthy laughs together." I love that! :)

Elvie Look August 9, 2011 at 3:00 pm

You are so right, the family that eats together stays together. You sure filled this article with a lot of good tips. Our garden is dismal with all they rain, killed by drowning. :(  

Sue August 9, 2011 at 6:05 pm

Great article, Carol…I love the phrase "the family that eats together stays together" — there's something so special about those times at the table together..not just sharing food, but sharing each other's ups and downs of life…… Love the pics as well!! 

michele August 10, 2011 at 4:21 am

What great tips for gardening and for life as well. Any family enjoying this activity together will enjoy their free time together as well. Wonderful post!

Carol Giambri August 10, 2011 at 10:19 am

Sue, thanks for comments and noticing important family comment about eating together. Thanks for compliment about pictures. Fun finding them.

Carol Giambri August 10, 2011 at 10:21 am

Thanks Michele. Love sharing about gardening and simple healthy living which includes among many things healthy eating as I evolve. Appreciate the compliment from the wonderful flower expert-you.

Carol Giambri August 10, 2011 at 10:23 am

Elvie, gosh killed garden. Is dad’s blooming still for ya to enjoy if near by? Glad you loved tips. I had a few close calls to losing my crop as well, but now the tomatoes are coming in so delicious. Squash is looking super right now. Thanks for comments.

Carol Giambri August 10, 2011 at 10:25 am

Thanks Scarlett for your great comments. You surely must have lots of great conversation with all the kids hanging around the table. Can’t go wrong with sharing around the table and laughter. Laughter is so often left behind and yet so important. Lighten up maybe is a better word for laughter.

Carol Giambri August 10, 2011 at 10:26 am

Alexandra, thanks for sharing your comments. I found this silly zucchini and have it staring me in the face. Gotta find a way to preserve for sure.

Carol Giambri August 10, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Beth, thank you for comment and yes get heirloom tomatoes. They rock but don’t all tomatoes. I love all flavors and taking pictures as well. I am being “birthed” into some creativity with the camera or obsessed. Can’t stop at one picture but just force myself to realize enough is enough. This season will end soon, but for me I’m trying again. I never stop but love the results even if few–it’s in the fun too.

Carol Giambri August 10, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Michelle, thanks for sharing. Desert? Limited water but still water? Do neighbors grow things? Is their an Extension Service near by? Are there nurseries? Figured a place to ask for their local suggestions. I’m thinking mulching and preparing the soil well would help with less watering needed.

Anastasiya Day August 11, 2011 at 1:37 pm

Great article and I love these ideas too! Thank you so much for sharing your tips with us! Love the photos you have used within your article :)

Wil August 12, 2011 at 8:58 am

Oh! Those veggies look good enough to eat! When's supper?

Carol Giambri August 14, 2011 at 9:17 pm

Wil, thank you for looking at my “prize” veggies and your comment. Supper is ready when you let me know you are coming and a bonus surprise too.

Carol Giambri August 14, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Anastasiya, Thanks for comment. Glad they were helpful. I love taking pictures of fresh produce and flowers. Thank you for compliment on photos.

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