Gardening with kids: Gardens can feed your body and soul
If your garden is like mine, there comes a point where you wonder how one plant can produce such a bounty of fruit or vegetables. Usually it’s zucchini, this year it was cucumbers. There was a point where one plant was producing over 50 cukes per week!
“What are you going to do with all this stuff,” Desmond, my youngest asked me in awe when every inch of counter, table and a fair amount of our kitchen floor space was filled with the vegetables we had picked that day.
“Well, we’ll freeze some to enjoy in the winter, make pickles and sauces, dehydrate some and share some with friends and family, and people who don’t have enough fresh food to eat,” I replied.
An overabundant harvest is normal at our place and we make use of what we can, but there is always more than we can handle; I make sure of it. Gardening breeds a sense of community, and we grow more, since we have the space. We share with family members who do not have gardens, with friends and co-workers, our daycare, families in need and charities. It is a heart-warming experience to be able to share and a valuable lesson for the kids to learn.
“Why don’t people have food to eat?”
Kids are often surprised that other children and families do not have enough food to eat, especially in their own communities. They don’t understand how things like job losses, illnesses and a multitude of other reasons affect people’s income, time or ability to grow a garden or eat fresh fruit and vegetables. What they do understand is how important it is to eat healthy food. We’ve been teaching them this their entire young lives. But, what we sometimes fail to teach them is that for many people this is a luxury they are not able to enjoy or afford. Sharing produce from your garden is a great way to teach children about hunger and it makes everyone feel good.
Once children are aware of a need they are almost always willing to jump on board to help. If you have extra produce, or have grown extra produce for a “grow-a-row” program, get them involved. Ask them for ideas on how to share food with those in need. Create a discussion and make it part of your gardening efforts every year. You both can reap the rewards of sharing and learning fun ways to give back to your community.
Here are a few ideas for sharing: Take part in a grow-a-row program: These programs encourage gardeners to grow-a-row for those in need in their community. A quick Google search should uncover one in your area. For great sharing information check out this grow-a-row junior website growarow.org/pargar_jr/pargar_jr.htm
Fruit share programs: Too many apples, plums or other fruit? Look for a fruit share program in your area. Volunteers will come out, pick your entire tree, leaving you with some and taking the rest for volunteers and charities to use.
Senior's residences, daycares and schools: Why not send a basket of cherry tomatoes, a crate of apples or apple muffins to your child’s school or a local senior’s home, just because? Healthy snacks are always welcome for the children, and seniors who used to garden will truly enjoy fresh produce. If you plant flowers why not bring a fresh bunch or two for the cafeteria as well?
Local zoo: Many zoos will take produce for the animals. They generally prefer stock that will keep, such as root vegetables and squashes. You can check to see if they still take apples, some zoos have stopped due to the overzealous donations they were receiving.
Soup kitchens: Most local soup kitchens will always appreciate any type of fresh donation.
Local barn: Too many apples or have several dropped from your tree? Why not see if a local barn is interested in some horse treats. Only donate fruit that is bug/disease free and just bring enough to last a day or two if the fruit has been bruised.
Make a thoughtful gift: Bake apple or pumpkin pies and drop one off to all your friends and neighbours for the holidays. Make pickles, salsa, relish or jams for everyone, or store them for teacher’s gifts.
Donate to a fall supper: Many community or church organized dinners rely on the kindness of volunteer and food donations. Donate some apple pies or vegetables for the meal.
You don’t need a large garden to teach children how care about the world around them. When you encourage them to think of ways to share, their ideas may just surprise you.
“Our vegetable garden is a sizable 45 feet by 65 feet. When I tell people this they often ask me why I plant such a large garden. The reasons are as plentiful as my crops.”
Taeven proudly bagging a vegetable order.
Cousins and grandparents collecting our veggies.