With grocery prices skyrocketing and incomes shrinking, home gardening has become more important than ever. It can make the difference between eating healthy or just getting by. Why not encourage your family to be involved in helping put food on the table and reaping the exercise benefits as well? There are many gardening activities that a family can do together and have fun with at the same time.
Make a family commitment to composting, Ask your family to help you compost your kitchen scraps. Select a container with a lid that seals and place it near the trash can or sink. Ask that all family members deposit their vegetable scraps, crushed eggshells, coffee grounds, teabags and fruit peels in the compost bucket. No meats, greases or dairy should be added, as this attracts animals and is harder to break down.
A compost bin can be as simple as a piece of fencing wire hooked together to form a circle, or a black plastic composter that most recycling companies or nurseries sell for 35$. Layer kitchen compost with grass clippings, leaves and shredded newspaper, and turn with a pitch fork. The resulting compost is free fertilizer for your garden.
Go a step further and start a worm ranch. Get two tubs with lids and put inch holes in the bottom of one. Place a brick inside each end of the undrilled tub and place the tub with holes inside it, resting it on the bricks. Fill it to 1/3 depth with shredded newspaper, some peat moss or spent potting soil. Sprinkle the contents of the compost bucket on top and add one carton of red worms purchased from a bait store.
Every week or so add another bucket of scraps. Don’t put citrus scraps into a worm bin, as they are too acidic for worms to process. Add a little shredded paper or peat moss to cover the scraps and to serve as bedding for the worms. If the mixture seems too dry, give it a spray of water from a spray bottle. The moisture collected in the bottom tub near the bricks should be drained out periodically and mixed with water as a liquid fertilizer. Children will be fascinated with this environmentally sound way to recycle and will enjoy watching the red worms grow and change the scraps into a rich black fertilizer.
Seed tapes are a great way to make sure your seeds are spaced correctly and they help eliminate waste and thinning later on when the plants have grown. Invite the family to sit at the table and cut paper towel strips inch wide. Combine a mixture of flour and water to make a thin paste and give each person a small container of paste and a toothpick. Get out your seeds and read the spacing requirements.
Take a pen and a ruler and mark off the inches with dots. Dab a toothpick into the paste and put a tiny dot of paste on each spacing mark. Use a wet tip of a toothpick to pick up individual small seeds and drop them onto the paste dots. Allow each strip to dry and store them in individually marked zip locks with the seed packet until ready to plant. Then dig a row with the required depth, stretch out the tape and cover with soil. Water thoroughly and soon perfectly spaced plants will be growing, with no wasted seeds.
Read and discuss the book Square Foot Gardening. Assign each family member a 4×4 plot or raised bed box filled with soil. Encourage them to plant it with vegetables they like to eat and flowers for beauty. They must also choose a senior or friend to share with when harvest time comes. Make it a fun competition and give prizes for the biggest veggie, most prolific, most shared, etc. Take photos of progress and winning items for a family scrapbook.
Join a local mushroom society and take your family on their sponsored mushroom hunts. Learn to identify wild mushrooms and edible plants, then take it a step further and try growing mushrooms from a kit at your home. Have the family help research types of mushrooms that can be grown at home and try different varieties.
Hold a family meeting to generate ideas for bartering and trade. Barter extra produce or home made meals for things that you need. You can advertise on Craigslist or on a local bulleting board. Many health food stores have open bulletin boards to post on. Family members can also trade work for produce. Perhaps a senior with fruit trees would trade fruit for lawns mowed. A person with an unused garden plot might be willing to let a family use it in exchange for a share of the harvest.
Involve the family in the preparation of the foods you grow. Make trips to the library for cookbooks and find recipes to try. If a child is involved in planting and caring for a garden, preparing what is grown will become a joy rather than a chore.
Regular family meetings to gather ideas and discuss progress are great ways to involve everyone. Make sure to listen to everyone’s ideas and give each special consideration. You are building a tradition that will serve your family well into the future.
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