Let This Trash Can Do the Dirty Work for You
Let Them Do the Dirty Work
When 4-year-old Nathan popped a broccoli floret from my garden into his mouth, I thought his mother would faint. "He's eating ?" she said, incredulously.
But Nathan and all the kids from our neighborhood--including my own 3-year-old son--had helped me plant the garden that spring and took regular sampling safaris into the plot. Now, a new study mirrors what I learned that summer behind my house: If they help grow them, they'll help eat them too.
Gardening with kids. Saundra Lorenz, RD, and her fellow researchers at Texas A & M University found that when 4- and 5-year-olds spent about 30 minutes a week for 8 weeks planting and tending a garden, they were more likely to taste the vegetables they'd gotten to know, up close and personal. In Lorenz's study, those included green beans, bell peppers, radishes, and cherry tomatoes.
"We tested children's preferences for each vegetable by having them rank the vegetables from most liked to least liked," said Lorenz. "Green bean preference in particular improved after gardening."Learning to love veggies isn't the only benefit kids may get. Tending a garden can teach patience and a love for nature.
It's also valuable family bonding time. Plus, gardening's great exercise. A 60-lb kid could work off more than 100 calories an hour digging, hoeing, and weeding.
It's not hard to lure kids to a garden. After all, dirt calls to them. But here are some tips for making it a great experience they'll want to continue.[pagebreak]
- Garden without pesticides, so kids can eat some veggies on the spot. (Just wash with the hose first!)
- Don't treat kids as slave labor. Let them participate at whatever level makes them happy.
- Plant cool things. Jumbo veggies, such as foot-long cucumbers, or miniatures, such as the kid-sized baby ball carrots (they're round!), are entertaining as well as edible. Dig a pizza garden, a round plot filled with staples and favorite toppings such as tomatoes, peppers, onions, oregano, and parsley. Or pick a garden theme from a favorite book. (The Tale of Peter Rabbitby Beatrix Potter is a natural.)
- Invest in some kid-sized tools. You can find tools, games, books, and other kids' gardening ideas at several good Web sites, including the Rodale Institute's kidsregen.org.
- Yardless? You can grow most veggies in containers. Read on.
You can't grow veggies without the sun, but you can grow them without a yard. Container gardening is easy and convenient as long as you follow a few simple rules.
- Don't use a container that's held toxic material.
- If you're using something other than a planter, punch drainage holes in the bottom.
- Water frequently. Containers, especially clay pots, dry out quickly.
- Choose the right size for the vegetables you plan to grow. Here's a general rule of green thumb:
To Grow ...Broccoli, bush beans, carrots, lettuce, peppers, radishes, scallions, spinach
You'll Need ...1- to 2-gallon containers
To Grow ...Eggplants or larger crops of the plants above
You'll Need ...3- to 10-gallon containers
To Grow ...
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