Now's the Time to Plant a Garden With Your Kids


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Now that COVID-19 has shut everything down, we all need ways of dealing with the stress of what might happen, while all of our usual coping mechanisms are gone. This is doubly true for parents with kids, now that schools and daycares are closed, the playground is no longer safe, and playdates are off the table.

Meanwhile, many of the workplaces have shifted to work from home, with the expectation being that you will continue to work at the same pace, all additional parental obligations aside.

Hope Jahren, biologist and author of the books “Lab Girl” and “The Story of More,” has a suggestion for parents with kids stuck at home.

Depending on the amount of space you have available, and how much energy your kids need to expend, gardening can be as simple as growing a few herbs in a pot or as complicated as planting an extensive vegetable garden.

“Kids can’t break dirt,” Jahren said. “Also, they’ll learn biology by seeing it in action. The lesson teaches itself.”

Consider your available space

The first step is to consider the space you have available. For some of us, that will mean a yard, for others a balcony, for others, a windowsill. Even if you only have a small space, growing plants is still possible. It just requires a little creativity, as well as a willingness to look outside the traditional garden plot.

The next step is to think about what plants you want to grow. The simplest (and cheapest) way to start is by buying a few packets of seeds, whether at a plant nursery, grocery store, hardware store, or online.

Easy vegetables to grow

Some of the best vegetables to start with, as Jahren points out, are beans. “Beans of any kind are easy to grow!” she says. Snap peas or green beans are easy to grow, as are radishes. “Beets are nice to work with as they mostly take care of themselves,” Jahren said. “Just don’t forget to eat the tops!”

Other easy vegetables to grow include carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, and salad greens. Zucchini also grows notoriously well, to the point your neighbors will hate you for offloading all of your baseball-bat sized squash onto them.

Consider growing conditions

When it comes to planting for an outdoor garden, it’s important to think about growing conditions. What you plant and when will depend on where you live and what time of the year it is. Each region of the country is divided into zones, which is a way of gauging what plants can grow in your area, as well when the growing season for each plant is. The important thing is figure out which zone you are in, which determines what the growing season is for different plants. You might also need to make some amendments to your soil, such as adding compost, in order to make your plants happy.

That said, if all of that sounds like too much, don’t overthink it. Worst case scenario, you might waste some seeds along the way, as you figure this all out. Best case scenario, you’ll get some vegetables or salad greens for your efforts.

Make a growing schedule

Once you’ve got your seeds and you’ve thought about where you are going to plant them, the next step is to make a schedule. As Jahren suggests, read the instructions on the seed packets, write down the planting and harvesting recommendations for each, then make a rolling schedule for spring, summer and fall.

Once you’ve figured all this out, get your garden spade, grab your seed packets, and start planting! In a little while, if everything goes well, you’ll get the satisfaction of eating your results.

Who knows, this might even convince your kids to eat their veggies.