Grow your greens
Spring is the ideal time to plant a kitchen garden and enjoy the pleasures of eating fresh, seasonal food. In addition to the health benefits of home-grown foods, it’s a great way to teach children the skills that will lead to lifelong health.
More children are taking up cooking at home and starting backyard veggie gardens after participating in the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program, which is run in primary schools around Australia and teaches kids to grow, harvest, prepare and share fresh, seasonal food.
A recent government report found that the program has created a real change in health behaviours of children, families and school communities. Ninety-seven percent of teachers found that the program supported classroom learning, engaged students with hands-on activities and helped them learn other subjects. Children who were involved in the program were also more willing to try new foods, with a higher proportion willing to try new foods that they had grown or cooked themselves.
However, your child doesn’t have to take part in the program to benefit from growing their own greens. Gardening as a family can teach your children about the environment, weather and the food they eat; it encourages physical activity and responsibility; and may help them develop an appreciation for older generations who are able to pass on important lessons.
If you’re planting in spring, start with summer salad vegetables such as tomatoes, snow peas, capsicum, lettuce and cucumber. Fruits such as mangoes, melons and citrus fruits like lemons, limes, mandarins and oranges are also best planted in warmer weather. Passionfruit is ideal for planting alongside a sunny fence or shed and if you’re growing herbs on your windowsill, now is the time to plant basil, dill, chives, parsley and coriander.
If you don’t have the space for a herb or veggie garden, you may like to become a member of a local community garden, where you share a plot of land with the community and work together to grow a range of foods year-round.
Spring gardening tips:
– Use organic fertilisers that provide nutrients to the soil and place a toilet roll around tiny seedlings to protect them from snails.
– Make sure your garden, windowsill or balcony gets at least five to six hours of direct sunlight each day.
– Choose the right soil for your location – you may like to add a vegetable growing soil or potting mix to help your plants thrive.
– If you’re a beginner, try growing your kitchen garden from seedlings, rather than from seeds.
– Talk to your local nursery and get their advice on the best foods to grow in your space and location.
Are you an avid gardener? What fruits, vegetables and herbs will you be planting this spring?