In this article, you’ll find answers to questions like:
1. How to get my kids involved?
2. What are the easiest veggies to grow?
3. How do flowers help our garden?
Looking for a fresh project everyone can enjoy at home? A garden can be as easy as growing seeds in your windowsill to then plant outside. Eventually, you can harvest and cook homegrown vegetables as a family and hopefully root a lifelong interest in healthier eating.
1. HOW TO GET MY KIDS INVOLVED?
Fragrant potted herbs, such as basil, dill and rosemary, are quick and easy to pick up at local garden/hardware stores and farmer’s markets. Simply planting beans allows young children to observe the germination process, says Jenny Drake, 2019 Green Teacher of the Year for Palm Beach and Martin counties.
“The sprout grows into a bean plant relatively quickly, and it’s such fun to eat the bean from a plant that you planted yourself,” she says.
Drake’s students at West Gate Elementary in West Palm Beach begin to understand the gardening roles of soil, moisture, air and heat by making living seed necklaces from the Palm Beach County Earth Day 2020 Activity Guide using cotton balls, sandwich bags, yarn, water and radish seeds.
Get your children hooked by inviting them to sketch or paint a design for your garden and encourage creativity, says Amy Wagenfeld, director of environment for Memory Trees in West Palm Beach. For example, a repurposed boot with drainage holes punched in the sole adds whimsy to a simple outdoor container garden.
Wagenfeld’s nonprofit organization conducts an afterschool program that teaches children the basics of gardening.
“Send children on a treasure hunt to look at vegetable seeds/seedlings online or in catalogs and learn about what could grow in South Florida. Let them take the lead in selecting what to grow,” she says, noting research shows that produce grown by children is what they are most willing to eat. “Empower them to be the teachers; we can all learn from our children.”
2. WHAT ARE THE EASIEST VEGGIES TO GROW?
Beans, collards and onions are examples of easy-to-grow local vegetables, Wagenfeld says.
The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension at University of Florida offers this helpful list of the top 12 easiest seasonal vegetables to grow in South Florida.
Thanks to Florida’s perpetual warm weather, our growing season is year-round. Consult the university’s Florida Fresh free app for planting times and cooking tips. Click here to download it for iOS or click here for Android.
3. HOW DO FLOWERS HELP OUR GARDEN?
"Flowers attract butterflies and bees that are important pollinators, which enable many of our vegetables to grow,” Drake says. “Without flowers, we wouldn't attract butterflies and bees. Without butterflies and bees, we wouldn't have many of our fruits and vegetables.”
Native wildflowers are the best choice, according to the university. Pick your favorites here from 50 varieties.
Certain flowers also can deter pests. “For instance, planting a ring of marigolds around a vegetable garden is an effective way to keep rabbits out of the garden,” she says.
Flowers also are a great element for creative activities, such as making bouquets and botanical paper, as described on KidsGardening.org. The website offers a wealth of how-to for garden design and nurturing and protecting growth, as well as all kinds of garden-sourced fun projects such as building terrariums and making edible art from fruits and veggies.