By Janeen Lewis
Gardening is a fun and educational way to add a little more blue sky and sunshine to your days. Plus, your kids will love munching on veggies from the garden when dinnertime rolls around.
Here are 10 reasons to plant a garden with your family:
- Students who garden score higher on science tests. Gardening is full of science. Children learn about plant classification, weather, soil, pests and disease. They are introduced to botany in a natural, hands-on way, and recent research shows that students who had gardening experiences as part of their school curriculum did better on standardized science tests than students who were not exposed to gardening in school.
- If they grow it, they will eat it. As a teacher and a Junior Master Garden club leader I’ve witnessed the “if they grow it, they will eat it” phenomenon. Students love to harvest and taste foods that they’ve grown themselves. Master Gardener Beth Tovi, who has mentored elementary-aged gardeners for many years, says she sees the nutritional and health benefits children gain for gardening. “With the growing concerns about obesity, diabetes and even high blood pressure in children, gardening gets them physically active and outdoors. And children will eat anything they grow even if it’s green.”
- Digging in the dirt might offer health benefits. Some studies show that children raised on farms might have a lower risk of asthma, respiratory allergies and autoimmune disorders due to their exposure to certain microbes and fungi found in the dirt. Letting children play in the dirt may actually make them healthier than keeping them tidy and clean inside the house.
- Gardening strengthens emotional and interpersonal skills. Children who garden learn responsibility, patience, perseverance and how to deal with disappointment if the garden doesn’t grow the way they expected. They also learn how to collaborate with others to get the garden work done.
- Gardening connects children with nature. When children garden, they gain ownership in what they are cultivating. I have seen my own children grow “attached” to the plants in our garden. As children become more knowledgeable about all the living things in the garden, they are less likely to be afraid of touching the plants, getting soil on their hands or being near bugs.
- Gardening helps relieve stress for the whole family. A garden can be therapeutic and help reduce stress. In fact, a study in the Netherlands showed that after 30 minutes of gardening, subjects who had shown stress before they gardened had a “fully restored” positive mood. Gardening together can help the whole family feel more harmonious.
- Gardening teaches kids to problem-solve. “When they garden, children learn problem-solving skills,” Tovi says. “They say ‘This trellis doesn’t work very well. How can we make one that will better support this kind of plant?’” In a garden, children ask questions like “What is eating this plant?” or “Is this tree dying?” Once children become absorbed in solving the problems in a garden, they want to research to find the best answers. “They become sleuths, starting in the garden and heading into the computers,” Tovi says.
- Gardening is a good workout. Gardening is good physical labor involving muscles that don’t always get a workout. Even the most seasoned gym-goer may admit to being sore the day after working in a garden. Gardening involves stretching, bending, digging, lifting, pulling and raking. Even the youngest gardener with simple tasks gets physical activity.
- Gardening helps children become environmental stewards. When children start reaping the food and flowers that come from a garden, they realize a garden’s impact on them and their impact on the garden. Once they have this tangible experience, it is much easier to teach them to care for the environment.
- Gardening can lead to a longer life. Studies show that adults who garden in their later years live longer. Instead of living a sedentary life, gardeners get off the couch and are active in nature. Teaching children good habits when they are young will make them more likely to follow them throughout their lives.
Sow the seeds of a garden with your child today and see them reap the benefits for a lifetime.
Gardens to Grow with Kids
- Pizza Garden
Grow all the herbs to add to pizza. For an extra touch, make the garden round like a pizza.
- Fairy Garden
Include flowers, plants and miniature structures to create an inspiring place for your child’s imagination to grow.
- Pollinator Garden
Build a garden that attracts butterflies, bees, birds, bats and other insects and animals that will help pollinate plants. Try planting milkweed, zinnias and snapdragons.
- Herb Garden
Grow herbs inside on the windowsill or outside on the patio. Easy options for beginners include basil oregano, sage, thyme or parsley.
- Art Garden
Grow flowers and plants that can be used to make art or grow a garden of plants for kids to sketch.
- Maze Garden
Create a maze with hedges, grasses or corn. Put something interesting in the middle of the maze, like a sculpture, fountain or another special garden bed.
- Peter Rabbit Garden
Grow the vegetables found in Mr. McGregor’s garden. The great thing about this garden is that you can grow some of the vegetables – carrots, lettuce, radishes, and cabbage – in cool weather, so you can continue to garden into fall.
No Yard? No Problem!
If your backyard is a concrete patio or an apartment balcony, you can still grow a bountiful garden in containers. Choose some eco-friendly containers with drainage holes in the bottom, fill them with a potting mix and then choose seeds or seedlings to plant. Another option is to grow and herb garden inside on a sunny window ledge.
A terrific resource for starting a container garden is The Vegetable Gardener’s Container Bible: How to Grow a Bounty of Food in Pots, Tubs and Other Containers by Edward C. Smith. This book teaches even beginning gardens how to grow organic food in small places.
We Garden Together! is an introductory garden book for kids (ages 3-6) featuring hands-on planting and growing activities that can be done in a small yard, classroom or community garden.
Need More Help?
Grab some gardening supplies, get your questions answered or take a workshop at these plant nurseries in the Orlando area.
Lukas Nursery, Oviedo
South Seminole Farm & Nursery, Casselberry
Palmer’s Garden & Goods, Orlando
Apenberry’s Gardens, College Park