Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Productive Family Affair

By: Julie Young

Summer is soon coming to a close. The school year is starting once again, and before long it will actually be cold outside. It is not too soon to start thinking and planning for spring. You can begin to plan a future engaging outdoor activity that allows the entire family to participate.

One of the timeliest of family traditions would have to be gardening. Believe it or not, gardening used to be a way of life. People had to grow and/or raise most of what they ate. And it was critical that each member of the family played an important part. From the youngest to the oldest. Now, living in the age of every modern convenience you can possibly think of, we have drifted away from the gardening mindset.

Most people think of gardening in terms of a hobby, as though it is something that older retired folks do to putter around with and keep busy. Have you ever stopped to think about how it just might be a great "hobby" that not only you but your children would enjoy as well? What better way to spend quality time with your children! I have yet to meet a child who doesn't like to play in the dirt. So make the most of it! Research shows that gardening activities develop individuals, strengthen families, and build communities.

Here is a short list of benefits from gardening with your children. (The rewards are actually endless)

  1. Family time together. Let your family learn to work together and share, building and strengthening bonds that will last a lifetime.
  2. It's a great form of exercise. Also good for stress reduction, and relaxation.
  3. Fresh produce all summer long. Families with gardens tend to eat more fruits and vegetables for improved nutrtition.
  4. Save $ on grocery bill.
  5. Children can easily learn problem solving, work skills, and team skills through gardening projects.
  6. It sparks imaginations and provides a creative outlet, as well as a great sense of accomplishment.
  7. Great source for teaching lessons of character. Such as patience, responsibility, respect.
  8. There are endless first-hand learning opportunities; i.e. math, science, nature, biology, health, cooking, etc...
  9. Provides many precious memories - One idea you can do is take lots of pictures and your children can even create a scrapbook or journal about your summer garden. Something your family will look at and enjoy for years to come.

Planting a simple garden takes a little time and effort, but it is well worth it. Planning the garden, preparing the soil, then planting and nurturing the plants leads to a tremendous feeling of satisfaction when blooms begin to appear.

Begin now, by starting a gardening journal. Work together to plan and chart your garden. Research and choose a type of garden that best suites your family. Clip pictures of what you will plant. Sketch or color a garden plot. Come spring, you family will be ready and waiting with anticipation.

A variety of gardens to choose from:

  • patio garden ( also called container gardening)
    When your space is limited, like ours is in town, try your hand at a patio garden. Almost any old container will do. Tomatoes and peppers do exceptionally well in pots. As well as, many types of flowers.
  • flower garden/rock garden/butterfly garden
    Here your options are limitless. Wildflowers. Annuals. Perennials. Go with a theme or go with a favorite color scheme. With a little research, you can find out which flowers draw the butterflies and hummingbirds in your region.
    You and your children can begin to collect unique rocks and stones to set around and enhance your flower bed. Or another fun idea is painting plain ordinary rocks.
  • herb garden (also called a spaghetti garden) my personal favorite!
    You just have to love the name! Plant a variety of herbs such as parsley, oregano, basil, rosemary and sage. Or you could plant more calming herbs for a tea garden. Such as peppermint, chamomile, and anise. You might have to assign turns for snipping the fragrant herbs. Everyone will love this job!
  • vegetable garden
    With a bit of planning you can have an exceptional vegetable garden. Consider the space you have to work with. The time you and your family have to put into the garden...not only planting, but watering and weeding. And then decide what vegetables to grow. Start with some of your family's favorites...and then experiment with a few new tastes. You might be surprised at what your child will suddenly decide he likes. It would seem everything tastes better when you've had a part in creating it with you own hands. There is nothing more rewarding than growing your own food. No supermarket sells a tomato as good as the one you pick from your own vine.

Growing a garden requires both an investment of time and attention. It can be fun and easy. It can also seem quite challenging. A little patience, along with some effort and you will have very productive rewards. Not only in your garden...but your children as well. In contrast to popular video games, gardening teaches that life does not always give instantaneous rewards. With gardening, as with real life, the rewards for one's effort often payoff some time in the future.

Gardening makes a wonderful family project, filled with adventure, experimentation, and learning. Children love to learn when they're having fun. Teach them to enjoy the satisfaction of nurturing life, as well as spending time with you!

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