Growing your own organic vegetables is a major health benefit, but the garden provides more than just that, it provides a chance to grow values like patience and responsibility.
There’s also the benefit of family time spent together, and useful skills being passed on to the children. Taking ownership of a piece of land and being responsible for what happens on that land gives children a sense of accomplishment.
Anyone can do it
You don’t have to be seasoned gardener to make a vegetable patch work and it doesn’t matter if you make some mistakes along the way. Simple lessons learnt in the garden can be important practical ones – like caring for the environment and recycling.
You don't need a large garden
You don’t need a large garden to plant a veggie patch. A space the size of a door (1.5m x 2m) is adequate. Make sure the selected area gets good sun throughout the day. It’s also possible to plant vegetables in your flower beds. Spinach, cabbage and pumpkins work well here.
If you don't have a garden
Even if you don’t have a garden, you can still grow vegetables. Cherry tomatoes, brinjal and runner plants like peas and beans do well in pots on sunny balconies and patios.
If you need help
Seed packets usually have a clear indication of when and where seeds must be planted. Follow these guidelines for best results. If you aren’t sure what to plant for your climate, ask your nursery.
Weed your garden
Once a week a fairly lengthy session in the garden will be necessary in order to weed, check for pests and water.
When to water
Seedlings will need to be watered daily in hot weather. For a small vegetable patch, a watering can will be adequate but for a larger area a sprinkler is a better option.
What to do about bugs and pests
Keep an eye out for pests but remember that not all bugs are bad ones. Bees, mantises and ladybirds are good for your garden and earthworms are a sign that your soil is healthy.
You can make an organic pest spray if necessary by adding a few crushed garlic cloves to a quarter cup of grated household soap. Pour into one litre of boiling water. Allow to cool before spraying on the leaves.
Plant flowers like nasturtiums and marigolds in your patch or alongside it to repel insects like aphids. Strong-smelling vegetables like onions and garlic are also effective in repelling pests.
Fun in the sun
When you spend time in the garden always make sure your child wears sunblock and a hat. Don’t stress too much about the kids getting dirty.
The differences between warm, wet, squishy, cold and dry are important for a young child’s tactile development. If you are worried about them soiling their clothes, give them a set specifically for the garden.
Visit your local library or bookstore for books on gardening with children. These contain a wealth of ideas for the vegetable garden and other fun projects to incorporate. And don’t forget the scarecrow with the big straw hat. Happy gardening!