On our quest for more fruits and veggies this year, we decided to branch out and grow a few more veggies than the norm. Eh? Well, the norm for us would be two or three sadly neglected and slumping tomato plants. My dad would be sorely disappointed at the sight of our annual mini-garden. Maybe three plants of the same variety doesn’t even count as a garden, but then again, we are not claiming to be farmers.
In an effort to boost the life expectancy of our plants and to encourage healthy agriculture that, ahem, that actually yields a modest harvest, I am recruiting some help.
It’s called family, people. And I need them.
Perhaps cultivating a family garden will help inspire all the non-hired hands to pitch in and make it a success. Considering that I’ll be nine months pregnant by summer’s end, I will certainly need all the help that can be mustered to push the plants to the finish line and harvest a decent crop. (Seriously, I won’t even be able to see my toes much less capable of bending over to a pluck a bell pepper from its bush.)
A tomato or two from each plant would make my summer. Any more and I’ll consider us a homesteading family.
Complete with our 4×8 patch of land.
Here are five basic tips on growing a family garden.
1. Pick the best area for your garden
For us, it is a given that we plant it in our backyard. We have HOA regulations that we have to abide by and pretty much eliminates any other option. It is the best location for our little garden anyways. The front of the house is clearly out, because, I mean really, who plows up their front lawn for produce? The west side of the house has some drainage problems and doesn’t receive enough sun and the east side has rodent issues that we are addressing. So we are left with the best choice (and the approved one), our backyard. Take the time to think through all of the pros and cons of each location before turning the soil. Doing it twice would not be fun.
2. Cultivate the soil
Everyone’s land is different. Here in the south we have quite a bit of red clay and sand which is not the best for growing a garden. Learn what you may have to mix in with your soil to create a garden bed in which your plants will truly thrive. In other words, know your dirt. Here’s a soil tester that may be of help to you as prepare your bed for your plants.
3. Choose your plants
Research plants that do really well in your climate. Talk with your friends and neighbors about what they are growing this year or have grown in years past. You may find that you can learn from their mistakes and avoid a costly and timely mishap. You also need to keep in mind, however, that sometimes specific plants do better than others for a myriad of reasons. Last year it may have been the tomatoes and this year the cucumbers may be the vegetable that surpasses your expectations…and that you can’t give away fast enough. A family can only eat so many jars of pickles, right?
You could also encourage your children in their love for vegetables by allowing them to be in charge of “their” favorite veggie, selecting the plant or seeds, weeding and watering and harvesting their produce for the family table.
*For those that may be curious: we have a variety of tomato plants, bell peppers and cucumber plants. Wish them luck, please.
4. Care for your garden
This is where I typically fall off the wagon. Life gets busy with summer activities and I neglect my poor veggies far too often. Spend time nurturing your plants and they in turn will be good to you. Water them faithfully if your area goes through a dry spell. Remove weeds that may threaten your plants survival and stealing away nutrients that your plant needs. Keep your eyes peeled for bugs on your plants or even signs of rodents that have been nibbling your plants. I have already had issues with bugs on my tomato plants. You may need to research different methods to resolve these issues whether it be dusting your garden or perhaps even building a mesh cover (like seen on this blog) to protect your vegetables from pests, large or small. Or you may be like me and want to research all-natural ways for keeping your garden safe and healthy.
As a way to teach your children responsibility and how to work together, assign each child a section of the garden or their favorite veggies to weed and water during the growing season. They will enjoy watching their plants grow during the coming summer months.
5. Enjoy the Benefits of Your Hard Labor
As harvest time approaches, this is where your children will become increasingly excited about watching the produce grow and ripen, ready for picking. To be honest, I enjoy reaping the rewards of many hours caring for the garden. Make sure that the plants are still properly tied and staked so that you do not lose any produce rotting on the ground. Take the time to teach everyone what that particular vegetable should look like when it is ready to be picked. We recently picked over forty pounds of strawberries at a local farm and I spent a few minutes showing what a ripe strawberry looked and felt like to my girls. Whether you are eating your produce fresh, freezing or canning your harvest, you and your family will realize one thing.
Fresh, homegrown food tastes so much better.
So make it a family affair this summer. Learn about agriculture. Make memories. Teach them about responsibility and hard work. Enjoy fresh, real food. Together.
(Disclosure: Some of the links contain affiliate links. I may earn a little bit of money which helps keep this blog up and running. All opinions are 100% my own. )