A garden is therapeutic. I eagerly anticipate the season for spring planting and try to get my kids to be excited with me. I’m teaching them to plan the garden placement and pick companion plants along with their veggies and fruit. (Think marigolds with tomatoes, etc.) I tell my children how refreshing and inspiring tending a growing garden is and how getting dirt on your hands is good for you.
When I was little I would follow my dad or grandma around our family orchard and garden watching them tend all that was growing. I loved the visible joy of hard work that radiated from them, dirt covering their hands, evidence of their strong character and love of life. These are memories and character traits I desire my children to cultivate.
Our community, family and experience has provided a wealth of information on the do’s and don’ts of gardening. So this year I’m trying the raised garden method and involving my children in the whole process . . . even if its just watching.
Here are some helpful tips via my experience, the advice of both my grandmothers, my dad and a farming community. You’re welcome.
-Build your raised garden in full sun! North and south exposure is best. I had my kids help me locate the best spot and check the sun exposure throughout the day.
-Don’t use wood that is treated with a stain or any type of wood preserver, this could be potentially toxic. If you must have a stained or rugged/old barn look, try a tea, coffee or simple vinegar stain. I brought along my older children to pick out the lumber. They “helped” me do the math when we decided on the size of lumber.
-The perfect dimensions for a raised garden? It ranges from 3x6x2 or 6x4x2-3 feet tall to the trendy pallet gardens which vary in size. There is also the Square Foot Garden option for apartment living. Really, anything goes. Considering that my children want to be involved in this project in all of its stages, I chose to make mine 8 feet long by 4 feet wide by 8 inches tall.
-Lay unprinted packing paper and/or cardboard down on the bottom of the beds before you lay the dirt. This will help with water retention and weed control. The littles loved this job!
TIP: You can ask a local contractor if they have any extra dirt from any of their recent foundation digs. Just check to make sure the soil is good
-Soil is important! Fill the beds with a good garden dirt and mix compost and earth worms into it ahead of time in preparation for planting.
TIP: To avoid unwanted rats or other rodents, mix the compost down into the dirt rather than just scattering it on top.
-Mulch! Coffee grounds, grass clipping, shredded, unprinted paper bags and or crushed, clean eggshells can aid your growing plants in multiple ways. Two benefits are that it can help with water retention and help plants that may be lacking in vitamins. Just be careful not to over-mulch.
-If you need a little inspiration and help in the details of garden tending, plant placement, yearly rotation, consult a Master Gardener. Their advice is outstanding!
My kids love to help stir the compost, pull weeds, water the garden, mulch, and just be with me as I’m tending the garden. I like letting them learn along side me. It produces some great memories alone with the great food!