April 22, 2020

ABCs of gardening with kids

Your kids can learn a lot and have fun helping to plant a vegetable garden.

Contributed by Allison Collins, MD


What can you do to celebrate Earth Day while under a shelter-in-place order? Plant your spring or summer garden! It is the perfect time of the year to get your garden started.

I am not an expert gardener by any means, but I started my home garden when my oldest daughter was 4 months old and over the last 8 years, I have learned some things that work and don’t work. Plus, I have really enjoyed getting my kids involved at all different ages. This was the first year that both of my daughters, who are now 5 and 8 years old, have been able to participate in (almost) the entire process.

This year while sheltering in place, my amazing husband and kids spent a morning building a protective garden net made from PVC pipe and netting. About 2 years ago, the neighborhood squirrels caught on to my garden and would eat all the baby plants we tried to start — leaves, stem, and all. The only things spared were tomatoes, jalapenos, and cilantro, which were good for salsa, I guess! This year’s project ended up being an amazing math and engineering lesson (it was their “school” for the morning) with all the planning, measuring, assembling, and troubleshooting. My kids loved the satisfaction of seeing it go from concept to building to functional final product.

Then came our science lesson of planting the garden. They love picking out what we plant and we found a home improvement store with a good selection of veggies, as our local nursery is closed right now due to the shutdown. We decided to select half of the vegetables from seed and half as starter plants. We planted zucchini, yellow squash, edamame, kale, chard, carrots and 2 types of tomatoes (cherry and a larger one). I also have an asparagus plant that continues to come back every year and some cilantro and jalapeno from last fall.

My kids get so excited when they can see their plants grow and especially when it is time to pick the vegetables. Involving them in this process definitely gets them much more interested in eating the vegetables!

And you can use the vegetables you harvest in salads and many garden-inspired recipes, such as this lentil and mixed vegetable soup.

Eating more plant-based meals can have a positive impact on your health and the environment. While we're still sheltering-in-place, and when we start to get back to normal, there are many other ways to observe Earth Day and reduce our impact on the environment.