Looking for some family friendly gardening tips? Tips to get the gardening ideas flowing for children, moms & dads, and our elders. Any age is a good age to be a gardener. This portion of the Homestead Handbook is dedicated to gardening tips for all the different gardeners.
Gardening Tips For the Family
Likewise, not all gardeners are built equally! This appendix will address solutions for special gardeners, including children and the elderly, so that they too can enjoy this fulfilling activity.
Gardening can be a wonderful activity for grandparents and grandchildren to share. There are many places in which gardening is a “lost art”, since grocery stores have made life so convenient for families to gather their fruit and veggies. Connecting children to this age-old activity is important and can be very fulfilling. We encourage grandparents to nurture this habit in their grandchildren by building the kids their very own boxes, where they can grow whatever they please; something they can take responsibility for and care for. You would be surprised how much more often the grandkids check in and visit when they know they have their garden to tend! And every step of the way, grandma or grandpa is there to teach them how to plant, trim, harvest, and care for their plants, passing on wisdom the child will use and appreciate forever.
The only trouble is that occasionally, grandma and grandpa might themselves be having trouble gardening. Aches and pains are very common, and many seniors might find it difficult to perform the constant kneeling and standing typical in gardening. Luckily, the square foot garden has a solution. Since your garden boxes are customizable, it’s as simple as building the garden box to the ideal height of the gardener! This is a wonderful solution for other gardeners with disabilities; someone in a wheelchair can have the garden built to their ideal reaching height and voila. Because the square foot garden doesn’t require a ton of maintenance, it also means that there won’t be a lot of standing for long periods of time, either. Seniors can rest easy knowing it just takes a quick stroll outside to do some harvesting or trimming, and their garden will still be maintained to perfection. Using a plywood bottom on your square foot garden is also highly recommended, because it makes the box portable, so no matter what happens in the future, you can find ways and room to keep your garden going.
Square foot gardening is so ideal for seniors. The method has removed most of the work and hard labor of a single-row garden. It has eliminated the need for heavy and sometimes dangerous tools. Even the act of carrying in your harvest is made safer, because you as a gardener are no longer lugging in more crop than your family can eat in a month—instead you are taking only a few crops at a time, much easier to manage. There is no more digging, no more hoeing or weeding.
Almost everyone can benefit from the square foot garden system. Special needs gardeners such as veterans, the disabled, even prisoners and troubled youths, have benefitted from the installation of square foot gardens by volunteers. This opens up a whole new world to most of these groups of people, and allows them the chance to build and grow something of their own, and to see the tangible results of their hard work.
It may surprise some readers to learn, but kids really love to be in the garden—especially if they are included in its maintenance. They want to grow things, they want to learn how to make a garden work. And when you teach a child to garden, you are exposing her to all sorts of different skills and worlds, including ecology, biology, math, and even a bit of engineering. They will get to learn about different insects as they protect their garden from pests. Older children can be taught basic genetics by learning about different fruits, seeds, and hybrids. Perhaps most importantly, the child will be learning how to take responsibility for something, and the value that hard work towards a goal can bring.
If you are community minded, another thing you may want to consider with your new-found knowledge is building a community garden. Many Americans live in urban or other environments which may not see many gardens; most of these families probably rely on the grocery store for their imported veggies and fruits. But imagine how you could transform a community with even a small square foot garden space. Take a look around your neighborhood—maybe there is an empty lot or small space where one could be built that you have passed by many times, but never thought about. You may want to even consider calling your city parks system to find out if they would be interested in hosting such a project in an actual existing park, or perhaps they can recommend areas you may not have considered. At the very least, a call is worth the time.
Even in a small garden, each family or person could be given a typical 4×4 box. Starting small is the best idea, to gauge interest as well as experience, before you dedicate a lot of time and space to a larger project. Expansion is usually possible, but it’s much more difficult to cut down once you’ve begun with a large project. Just like the plants in your garden, you want to start small, and grow big!
Planning a community garden will take a bit more time and preparation than your family’s garden, as you probably suspected. Usually a community garden will have its own set of rules or guidelines for startup. These guidelines usually consider issues such as interfering with neighboring properties, use of water, maintenance schedules, distribution of crop, and use of things like fertilizer or pesticide. Luckily you do not need either fertilizer or pesticides in a square foot garden, and maintenance schedules will be minimal since you will also not be tangling with any weeds.
Your community garden should, of course, consider the needs of the community. Gardens should be built to accommodate everyone, from children and the elderly to neighbors with special needs. You may want to even consult other local groups that might be interested in participating in a project such as this—think of scouts, children’s groups, or even church groups. Check the internet or your phone book to see if there is a garden or botanical club in your area.
For most Americans, gardens are simply a wonderful addition to their lives. But to people in other areas of the world, a garden can literally be a guard against starvation. The square foot gardening method is completely ideal for use in many areas that are dealing with starvation. This space, energy, and water-saving method of gardening undercuts many of the issues that are currently plaguing such impoverished areas. The method will require some tweaking—for example, the use of straight compost in their optimized soil recipe, due to the implied lack of access to peat moss or vermiculite in their area. Compost can be created for free, which means they have access to basically everything they need to thrive. The best part about the square foot gardening method for this use is that it teaches communities and families to be self-sufficient. While humanitarian programs that provide food directly to these communities are incredibly important, it is not an ideal situation for those receiving the food to depend on foreign aid. It is all too horrible to imagine what would happen if the complex system that brings them food from were interrupted or ceased altogether. Thus it is in the best interests of these communities to be able to sustain their own livelihoods as much as possible given the conditions, so that food-giving humanitarian programs become just an extra aid, instead of their lifeline. Consider the good you could do by teaching someone in this situation how to create a square foot garden. Much like the philosophy of “paying it forward”, you have no idea who will benefit down the line from teaching this method. Starting a community garden this season could wind up helping communities in far-off places you’ve never heard of!
That was Chapter 10: Gardening Tips For The Family from our Homestead Handbook: How to Grow All The Food You Need In Your Own Backyard