April is that month here in Sonoma when everything seems to burst overnight. The April showers seem to have finally given way to warm sunshine, beautiful blooms and longer days. We decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather this past weekend and plant our vegetable garden on Earth Day.
We headed over to our lovely, local nursery, , and picked out my kids favorites for summer munching. We planted 4 sun-gold cherry tomatoes, 6 bell pepper plants, 6 cucumber plants, 2 zucchini squash, green beans and a few flowers to make everything look pretty. We are also trying a watermelon this year which will be interesting in our postage stamp-size garden.
But why would we bother to grow our own vegetables when you buy organic heirloom tomatoes from our local grocery store or farmers market instead?
Here’s my list of 10 reasons to play in the dirt and plant your own vegetables with your kids this year:
1. To experience the seasons. Have you ever spotted a cantaloupe growing in Sonoma in March? Of course, they are flown in from halfway around the world and are at every local grocery store. But what if you only ate a local diet consisting of fruit and vegetables that are only grown in Sonoma County? You can’t get more local than your backyard!
2.To reduce pesticides and chemicals in your food. Do you want your kids eating strawberries coated in pesticides? Try to grow the “soft skinned” fruits and vegetables that are on the Dirty Dozen List: spinach, strawberries, celery and apples are just a few that are easy to grow at home.
3.To grow rare and heirloom varieties that are not commercially available. Ever eaten a watermelon radish or purple carrot? Renee’s Garden Seeds (also sold at Sonoma Mission Gardens) offer several varieties of easy to grow vegetables that your kids will love growing and aren’t available in the grocery store. Others to try are the “Rainbow Kitchen Vegetable Garden” and the Children’s Garden Collection that include Cinderella Pumpkins and Tri-Color Green Beans.
4.Reduce trips to the grocery store which reduces your carbon footprint and is better for the planet. Walking into your garden is the best place you can walk to when the kids are hungry and need a snack!
5.Working in your garden is very therapeutic and gives you a break from electronic devices. Ever tried texting while planting? Keeping the kids away from the TV and electronic devices this summer while giving them a biology lesson in the garden is our little secret.
6.To eat more vegetables and less junk food. Ever heard of the “Real Food Challenge”? Cutting out all processed foods and eating more raw foods and vegetables for 100 days was the challenge this family took. We all know there are numerous reasons that processed foods are not healthy. Take the challenge this summer when you have a supply of fruits and vegetables pouring in from your garden. Your life will change, I promise!
7. Growing your own food saves money. Heirloom tomatoes for $7.99 a pound? Try buying them after you have grown your own and can walk into your garden and pick them for that night’s dinner. You will not be able to do it!
8. Your kids will be more likely to eat what they grow. You will have so much more luck if your kids watch what they grow and pick it fresh from the garden. My kids have tried things I never thought they would try. Their latest favorites are beets, kale and spinach. I know they would not even come close to them if we had not grown them ourselves.
9. Listen to the birds, watch the clouds float past and talk about the weather. Being outside is one of the most valuable opportunities we can give our kids each day. Even if you don’t have time to play a board game or even read them a book, at least take them out to water your garden. We like to go out every night after dinner and just water or check on the garden and you’ll be amazed at what kids will talk about about.
10. Fresh picked fruits and vegetable just taste better. Picking a fruit or vegetable when it is perfectly ripe and eating it after rinsing it with the hose is the best you will ever taste. Vegetables in the supermarket are picked when they are still green and gassed before they get to you. Try a fresh warm sungold tomato from your garden and you will never go back!
So what are you waiting for? Believe me, I had a black thumb and couldn’t even keep a houseplant alive when I started gardening about 10 years ago. Every year I learn so many new tricks that now I finally feel confident that I can grow a pretty good tomato. Just start with a planter box or even a big pot. And please be sure to let us know what you are growing this summer with your kids!
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