Family Gardening
PHOTOGRAPH BY NICK DAVID/GETTY

How To Start A Family Garden

This spring the whole crew is learning to grow.

April 29, 2015

Despite working at a place with a long and storied history in the organic movement, I can’t say that I’m a good gardener. In fact, I’m not much of a gardener at all. I’ve never actually tended a plot of my own, though I’ve helped friends with gardens a handful of times (mostly with harvesting after one buddy stopped me from weeding out any more of his bean plants). And the few houseplants I’ve bought or been given had such long, sad, protracted deaths that I finally gave up out of a compassion and, well, self-pity.

This year, however, my wife and I decided to take the plunge again. Why has growing edibles suddenly moved to the top of our to-do list? We did just move out of New York and now finally have a little space of our own, though there are plenty of community gardens in Brooklyn. But the real reason my wife and I stopped making excuses is that our daughter is now 4 years old, and at this age, several important developments make planting edibles both opportune and important:

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She’s Not A Baby Anymore
The daughter is now old enough to learn (and hopefully teach me) the difference between a plant and a weed. And she’s old enough to be fascinated by growing things—already this spring has been a marvel as we’ve watched the snow melt, snow drops and daffodils burst through the soil, and buds emerge along tree branches. This feels like the moment when, if we’re going to instill a passion for the Earth and its many miracles, we need to get going with it.

She’s Constantly Asking Where Things Come From
Seriously, she wants to know how everything is made. And she wants to know over and over and over. Instead of trying to tell her and hope she remembers, it’s time for her to see for herself.

She’s Really Into Making Messes
I mean, she’s still in preschool. And did I mention that we just moved from Brooklyn? So suddenly we have a yard that’s not a public park, where she can play with sticks and water and dirt. I figure we might as well be putting some leafy greens into the holes we’re making and see what happens.

It Makes Mother’s Day Gift-Giving Easy
The nice thing about the family starting a new hobby together is that it makes it much easier to come up with gift ideas. This year I think I’m going to get my wife some nice gardening gloves, and the daughter is getting her mom a fancy trowel that looks like a tulip—because it’s pretty as well as useful. And as an extra present for the whole house, I think we may get a good book on keeping plants healthy. And then we’re going to cross our fingers. 

 

Goatskin GlovesTulip TrowelNatural Pest and Disease Control

It’s The Best Family Activity

Oh my goodness: It’s so much better than plopping her in front of Sofia The First or Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Her mom and I can spend hours and hours with her picking out pretty-looking radishes, buttery lettuces, and tasty carrots and peas, nurturing and tending to the plants and watching them grow. And if they don’t grow, get sick, or get eaten (a very real fear of mine), then we’ll talk about character-building and how difficult growing vegetables can sometimes be. And then we’ll really appreciate the fruits and vegetables we have to buy.