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Why Garden With Kids

Why Garden with Kids
 
Why Garden with Kids
Todd Weinmann, M.S., Extension Agent, Cass County, NDSU Extension Service

People are looking for ways to eat more locally grown fruits and vegetables. If kids help grow vegetables, getting youngsters to eat fruits and veggies is easier. Knowing where their food comes from also is important for kids. When you get children involved, you usually also can get their families to participate.

Gardening provides physical activity, saves money on groceries and provides an opportunity to go outside. Many youth have not explored any type of gardening.

How to Garden With Kids

Kids like to participate and get their hands dirty. You can start with a container garden approach that will give them
experience with minimal resource input. You will need pasteurized soil from a box store or nursery, a container with drainage holes (food-grade plastic), seeds that do well in a container, fertilizer (slow release) and access to water.

For example: Let’s teach a child how to grow a tomato plant. We will use cherry tomatoes because of their high success rate. Have the child put the soil in the container and mix in the slow-release fertilizer at the same time; fill the container to an inch or so from the top.

What you are growing will determine the depth and width of the container. For a tomato, an adequate container would be 1½ to 2 feet high and about 1 foot or more across (basically a pail with a few holes cut in the bottom).

Plant the tomato plant you purchased or grew from seed into the center of the container after you have removed the bottom set of leaves. This container garden should be watered one or two times per day until water comes out of the bottom.

Gardening Offers Health Benefits

The physical exercise that comes with gardening can help reduce obesity. Working hard at gardening and reaping the harvest also provides a healthy-mind benefit.

What Kids Can Learn

A survey of youth who used a container garden for the first time showed the following results.

  • 25 percent increased their knowledge about fertilizer and how it works.
  • 28 percent increased their knowledge about how plants use slow-release fertilizer.
  • 24 percent indicated they have confidence in growing plants.
  • 81 percent had success in keeping their tomato plant alive.
  • 74 percent had plants that produced tomatoes.
  • 37 percent had problems, so they went to someone for information.

What Might Limit Youth From Gardening?

Kids might not have access to a garden space. Container gardening can overcome this problem. Children can grow vegetables in a large container instead of in a large garden. Gardening will provide ownership, life skills and self-reliance.

Adult Assistance Not Necessary

Assistance from an adult is great, but it is not always possible. With a container garden, a child who can read should be able to handle it.

Good Crops for Kids

Here are some suggested crops for youth to try growing.

In a standard garden:

  • sunflowers
  • pumpkins
  • Yukon gold potatoes
  • hybrid short-season tomatoes

In a container garden:

  • peppers
  • cherry tomatoes
  • lettuce
  • eggplant
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