Harvesting more than vegetables from your summer garden
Having a large, bountiful vegetable garden is something I’ve always wanted to do. However, in the past 5 or so years, I have gotten married, moved twice, given birth twice, and begun and completed graduate school. Needless to say, I’ve never had the time for gardening. This summer was the first summer in over 5 years that I found myself with children of manageable ages (re: no newborn babies!), no graduate school, no pregnancy, and no plans to move. I declared it “the summer of the vegetables”.
When I set out to plant a garden, it was for purely selfish reasons. I wanted pretty flowers to cut for my table, and I wanted fresh veggies and herbs at the ready. I completely overlooked how much my children would get out of this experience. I’m not talented enough to start plants from seeds (yet!), so we ordered a variety of plants from a local boy scout troop fundraiser. I assumed the upkeep of the garden would fall to my husband and me since the boys are so young (just over 1 year old and almost 4 years old). However, since we first planted in May, I’ve been answering questions from my older son about how tall various plants grow, how to tell the different leaves apart, how the flower turns into a vegetable, why our tomatoes aren’t growing, why plants need water, how to tell when different vegetables are ready to pick…the list goes on. And on. And on. I am now seeing what a great opportunity a family garden can be for math and science projects!
I am already mentally planning next year’s garden and brainstorming different ways to involve the boys. The possibilities are really endless. My plans include…
- Taking out library books about gardens and plants early in the spring before we begin to plant (for example, Gail Gibbons “From Seed to Plant”and Eric Carle’s “The Tiny Seed”) and reading them together
- Looking at seed catalogs to see what we would like to grow in our own garden
- Testing the soil pH to see if we need to adjust it (easy to do at home with pH strips!)
- Taking photos of the garden each week to show the changes over the span of the growing season
- Finding recipes for the vegetables and herbs we are growing and doing some cooking with the boys
- Keeping a “harvest tally” and recording how many of each vegetable we manage to harvest