As a child I grew up on a hobby farm. My parents were big "Back to Basics" fanatics. They grew just about everything. A giant garden, berries, fruit trees, Chickens and Cow's. It was the most amazing experience as a child. So much to do and learn.
That experience has followed me through my adolescence to now.
As a parent I want to share and allow my children to have this same interaction with the growing and living world that I had on the farm. The issue is that we now live in the downtown area of Silverton, Oregon. We are surrounded by giant fields and lots of farms. Agriculture abounds, around us, but we are still on a postage stamp lot in the downtown area.
Rather than forgoing the experience for my children I decided it was important to have a vegetable garden, no matter how small.
Our garden ended up being a square foot garden design. We have 4 individual beds that measure 4' x 4' each. This isn't much but it's amazing how much abundance there is in such a small space.
Beyond the scale of a garden I find that it is very helpful to place it appropriately. Not only must it have sun exposure, I find that it is so much easier to take care of a garden and enjoy a garden when it is in close proximity to the house.
A vegetable garden doesn't have to look like a stereotypical garden either. Straight rows can disappear altogether. Using pattern, color and texture can make a garden pop. With a little planning in the winter and a good seed catalog, just about anything is possible.
Typically you will find that most people put their garden plot towards the back of the property. It can be so far away that you can often miss a watering, or not notice when a zucchini is perfectly ready to pick. This can prevent interaction with the garden on a daily basis.
When our garden came into production the first year we had it close to the house, I noticed that my oldest son was watching the plants grow. He was watching from the window on the rainy days that we didn't venture outside. He could tell when the plants were germinating and He saw that first Snow Pea ripe on the vine. I found very quickly that for our family the location of our garden was very important in recreating some of the experiences that I had, growing up on a farm.
After the first year of gardening this way I decided that I wanted our garden front and center. The second year I added Blueberries and Strawberries next to our deck to allow our boys to graze off the back porch. Again, I saw that gleam in my children's eyes and watched them feast on the fruit that we grew together.
This year I took it a step further and added a hydroponic/ airoponic system to our deck called a Tower Garden. It allows us to grow vertically and I can move it to any part of the house I choose. I can even bring it indoors in the winter if I choose. We started with greens. Lettuce and Spinach. I had enough to feed the neighborhood. We are now on our second round of crops and this time I am growing cucumbers, watermelon and more lettuce. I choose to put the plants that typically don't thrive as well in my garden beds. Mostly because of the large amounts of water required to keep them happy. the nice part is its on a timer system. I can go on vacation and I don't have to worry about it getting the water it needs. So far I'm very happy with the addition to our garden. The boys love the Tower Garden. They love to pick lettuce for our salads in the evening.
So for now we might not have the Chickens or Cow's, regardless having a garden close to the home can help expose children to the beauty of gardening. It is also extremely beneficial as a gardener to watch the plants closely and know when the vegetables are ready or in crisis.
If having this type of set up doesn't work with the layout of a home I find that even growing in pots off the patio or growing shade loving vegetables will help to expose ourselves and our children to gardening.
Now that summer is here I look forward to waking up in the morning, make my cup of coffee and sit on the porch and check on my garden. I also love the fact that I can take a few steps to pick Kale or Spinach for my morning smoothy. Even on the rainy days I don't have far to go.