Kyrstie from A Fresh Legacy and I have been back and forward for months organising this guest post for you! I think one thing that stops many families from getting into the garden and creating a veggie patch is just having that little extra push to do it. So consider this your extra push!
Kylie recently reviewed my book Grow Just One Thing-The first step in a fresh food journey. I was so thrilled when she decided to take up the challenge to begin to grow more than just one thing with her family. We are of course talking about growing fresh herbs and vegetables at home.
So you have decided to start a vegetable garden? What now?
That decision point can be as exciting as your first garden harvest. Imagine the mountains of fresh herbs or vegetables you can harvest from your garden and add to your family meals. The possibilities are endless!
Let’s take one step at a time, a little planning will ensure that you succeed and do end up with those wonderful garden harvests I am sure you can imagine.
I created this very simple GROW framework to explain the process. It can be applied if you are starting out small and growing just one thing, or if you are beginning to grow a whole garden bed.
Note: This is a big topic so I am sticking to the basics and highlighting the key points to consider and action to get you started.
Start to talk to your family about your intention to grow a vegetable garden.
Ask for suggestions on what they would like to grow, where you will set the garden up, when you will do it and what you will make with the garden harvests. If your children love strawberries ask them to imagine what it would be like if they could pick their home grown strawberries after school for a snack, or you can plan to make strawberry sorbet together.
Use the excitement generated to gain family commitment and involvement.
In this planning phase prior to planting consider these practical aspects:
- Where you will plant – eg: in an existing space or in a space to be created
- Position of the garden – north facing, full sun is optimal. To find out the best spot to position your garden set the children a project to watch the area you’d like to plant in for a day and record how much sun it gets across that day. Most vegetables and herbs need 4 or more hours of sun per day. Ensure the plants will not be exposed to strong winds as this will damage and stunt growth.
- Consider what is around the garden – avoid planting your vegetables near large trees as they will draw the water and nutrients from the soil around them and the vegetables will not thrive
- What materials do you need? Eg: timber, pots soil, hay bales etc
- Do you have pets or pests? Be mindful that dogs and chickens like to dig in vegetable gardens and also eat the vegetables. You may need to consider protection for the garden bed. Some areas of Australia have significant issues with possums and rats. If they are a problem in your area you will need to plan for your garden to be enclosed so they are excluded. Failure to do this will mean you are simply feeding these animals instead of your family…..
- How will you manage the garden? If it is to be organic you will need to consider treated vs untreated timber, access to manure, compost, and down the track pest control can be considered.
Reserve Family Time
Lock in a day or weekend to set up your garden once the set-up is complete. A project of this type is a great way to spend family time together. Everyone can contribute and be a part of the success of harvests in the future.
What will you grow? One seed is all you need if you are going to grow just one thing.
- If you are planting a family vegetable garden make a list of all the veggies and herbs you enjoy eating and purchase often at the shops. Avoid planting vegetables that no one is likely to eat at this point in time. That can come later when you get adventurous.
- Once you have your planting list worked out check the plants are suited to the current season. All herbs and vegetables grow best in a certain season. You can find my free seasonal planting guide here if you need some help with what to plant when. There is a list of things to plant in spring further down this post.
Tip: Choose plants that are easy to grow to begin with so you can experience and celebrate some success. These include: lettuce, parsley, peas, rocket, spring onion, rosemary
- Plant a suitable quantity for your family size – for example: zucchini is a very productive plant. A family of four only needs 2 zucchini plants. If you plant more you will end up never wanting to see zucchini again in your life.
- If you don’t want to grow from seed you can find more advanced plants at your local nursery. It is less time from planting to harvest when you do this. There are many benefits and lots of fun to be had from planting seeds with your children so they can observe the whole process. Select the best option for you.
Tip: Seedling punnets usually have many more seedlings than you will need for your garden so try to plan the activity at the same time as a friend or neighbour so you can share the seedlings. Not many families will need to plant 8 broccoli plants
Water Watch and Wait
Your plants will need some care if you are to reap the harvests. The more plants you grow the more time you’ll need to commit. In general a small family garden is a low time commitment. You will need to water, especially in the warmer months and complete some seasonal activities such as mulching, weeding and re-planting. All in all you will get more from your garden than you need to put in. Just a few minutes care each day will give you great harvests for your meal table.
Involve your family in the care of the plants by scheduling it – give the kids turns to water and turns to harvest. Try a watering chart to keep everyone on track, or simply allocate specific plants to them to care for. That harvest will be a success for them to celebrate. They may like to help decide how you will enjoy the harvest in tonight’s dinner.
I have found my children very closely watch and care for the plants they have been charged with the responsibility of looking after.
Watch and Wait:
A vegetable garden is a wonderful way to teach children patience. Growing from seed is an exciting adventure and it takes some time for plants to grow and develop. Some will germinate in 7 days and some take up to 21 days. It is not an immediate reward and requires some care and input.
Once you get started you can begin to add a diary note to remind you when to replant, for example if you replant your lettuce and carrot seeds every 6 weeks you will have a continuous supply on hand always. When peas are in season I add more seeds every 2-3 weeks.
Planting for spring:
Spring is just around the corner so you plant these things:
Happy growing. Thanks for having me to visit Kidgredients. X
Kyrstie is founder of the blog A Fresh Legacy and author of the book Grow Just One Thing – The first step in a fresh food journey. She has also created The Kitchen Garden Box to help a family grow across a complete year with all of the guess work removed.
Kyrstie provides a complete vegetable garden set up and discovery package for preschools (currently in Victoria).
Find more garden tips and fresh family recipes: