By: Tracy Noble
Before my two-year old daughter was born my husband and I believed ‘fresh’ fruit and vegetables came from the freezer or a can. This all changed when I found out I was pregnant and started paying attention to what I was eating. All of a sudden I was eating real fresh fruits and vegetables and a lot of them! And I liked it! The idea to turn a big patch of grass in our backyard into a fruit and vegetable garden only came last summer when I was trying to think of a fun, educational and fulfilling summer activity to do with my daughter.
My husband was eager to help and together we dug out a 120 sq.ft. garden. We then invested in some nutrient-filled compost and soil as well as brightly coloured gardening tools made especially for kids which my daughter put to use right away helping to shovel the new soil into the garden. First and foremost the vegetable garden was for my daughter: to get her closer to nature, to show her where fruits and vegetables come from and to witness the miracle of watching a little seed grow into something you can eat. We let our daughter decide what we were going to plant and she ended up choosing cherry tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce, red peppers, potatoes and watermelon.
From seed to vegetable my daughter checked the garden everyday. She helped us weed and water (with her very own watering can purchased especially for the vegetable garden), and when the time came, harvest, east and enjoy. The cherry tomatoes never made it inside the house and a few of the red peppers were consumed while green, but much to our surprise, everything in our garden thrived. We lost most of our watermelon plants (who knew they needed so much water to grow?), but one survived and it flourished! We got three tasty watermelon from one plant and I have never seen my daughter enjoy the fruit as much as she enjoyed the ones from our garden.
Our garden wasn’t perfect – there were times we didn’t know what was planted where because our daughter had moved the signs around. We didn’t bother sectioning anything off because we wanted her to be able to walk through the garden and get dirty either looking for worms or cherry tomatoes ripe for the picking.
If I were to give advice on successful vegetable gardening with a toddler I would recommend choosing a sunny location, remember to water frequently (and expect to get wet if you are brave enough to give your child the hose), use nutrient rich soil and then just watch everything grow (or not grow)! Admittedly last year was a great growing season in our region and we were lucky with a great harvest, but even if this season’s garden isn’t as bountiful I know my daughter will enjoy whatever does grow. After all, a garden is its own outdoor classroom – fun, educational, rewarding and delicious too.
Tracy Noble is a freelance writer who can be found outside, whatever the weather, with her (almost) three year old daughter.