Growing food has become a wonderful way to commune with nature — and my children

2011-09-01 00:00

IT is early days yet, but I think I’m hooked. I’ve become obsessed with growing food in my garden.

It started fairly innocuously: a friend decided that my garden needed sprucing up. He nicked a few cuttings from a friend’s garden and threw them into my badly drained soil. We quickly realised that the soil would need some nutrients, so the following week, there he was, digging up my flower beds (I use that term loosely, of course) again and introducing some rich compost.

After a few weeks of keeping it all wet, the cuttings were starting to thrive. Naartjies started to appear on a tree that hadn’t yielded fruit in years. A few more weeks and I got my first chillies. Fast forward a few months and I was harvesting fresh, ripe, juicy tomatoes.

I’m now completely addicted. There are peas in the front garden and I’m plotting and planning to have a harvest of cabbages and potatoes soon. I’ve even started my very own compost heap.

My children, Things one, two and three, seem addicted too. In the summer, they would argue over who got to hold the hose to water the plants and the task would often deteriorate into a water fight. They loved snacking on the naartjies from our tree before school.

“Mom, a tomato is ripe.”

Their favourite activity is to run into the back yard when we come home in the evenings and yell that yet another tomato is ripe for the picking.

And even though they wouldn’t dare taste them, they revel in telling me that more chillies have appeared and will soon be ready for my collection.

Gardens are the ideal place for children to explore, learn, touch and experience, according to Gardening Eden. There are heaps of things to do, like touching the various plants, listening to the bees, watching the butterflies, and tasting the fruit that comes off the plants. Bugs and creepy-crawlies provide infinite entertainment too.

Today, Things one to three spent 20 minutes finding caterpillars. Much fun was had collecting them and placing them in containers with pieces of tomato and nasturtium leaves and discussing how they would soon become butterflies.

Vegetable gardening, says Parenting Hub, is a good way to teach children how to live a healthy lifestyle. They can be taught to cook with the vegetables they’ve grown and I think even the fussiest eater would be more willing to eat something he or she has helped nurture.

“One of the most important things about [vegetable] gardening is understanding where food comes from,” says Amy Gifford, quoted on Art of Play. ‘

“She says that young children are fascinated in seeing food when it’s pulled from the ground, and they notice the similarities and differences from their garden vegetables and produce from the grocery store.” Children in the garden Some of the tips offered at Ecovitality for gardening with children include:

• choosing a small space in your garden where children can grow their own plants;

• ensuring that they have child-sized gardening tools;

• sowing fast-germinating seeds or planting things that are quick to flower or bear fruit in order to satisfy their need for instant gratification and; and

• using natural alternatives to weed killers and pesticides.

“Gardening gives you a sense of accomplishment and independence,’ says Backyard Gardening “…[and] is a great source of exercise and fresh air.”

Perfect reasons, I would say, to feed my addiction and get out into the garden with my children every evening.

— Parent

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