The other day my little one quickly rushed out to the garden with a spade in his hand. He jumped into his wellies and went marching into the garden. Turns out that he wanted to plant another seed from the nectarine he had just happily devoured. He’ll try and remember to water the spots where he’s planted the seeds and we’ll keep an eye on them… all of them.
Living in the city we often don’t think about growing edibles in our own gardens. Our garden spaces are small. But as I look around, I’m seeing more people trying to make this work. There’s just something rewarding about growing your own fruits and vegetables. Our neighbours have a pear tree that they take care of. If we’re lucky, and it’s a bumper crop year, we can share in their harvest.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Tara Nolan, editor of Canadian Gardening Magazine’s website for her advice on how to get into the garden with kids. Tara had recently partnered with Plant it Forward, an initiative with Evergreen and Kashi to build and support 18 urban gardens across Canada so that people in need can get fresh, real food.
Tara is a member of the Garden Writers Association and has written about gardening for the Toronto Star, Canadian Living and Reader’s Digest, among others. She has also spoken about gardening at Canada Blooms and the Toronto Botanical Garden, as well as on a variety of North American radio shows and podcasts. In 2014, she co-founded Savvy Gardening, a website that aims to cultivate curiosity and confidence about gardening in new and experienced green thumbs alike.
Why is it important for kids to get involved in gardening?
Tara: I think it’s important to teach them at an early age where their food comes from. With 85 percent of Canadians living in cities, there is often a disconnect when it comes to our food sources. Showing kids the difference in flavour, as well as how fun it is to nurture a garden is a rewarding experience. Even trips to the local farmer’s market help to introduce them to various farmers who can help get them enthused about growing their own food.
Urban Gardening seems so intimidating to some. Can you offer us some tips on how to start a small garden with our kids and fun ways to get them involved from planting to harvesting?
Tara: Start small so you’re not completely overwhelmed. Choose plants that would regularly appear on your grocery list, like tomatoes. There are lots of pint-sized garden tools out there, so arm your kids with their own little set, as well as gloves, so they’ll feel like they’re an integral part of the gardening process. Allow them to dig the holes for the plants, show them how to gently remove the plants from the pots and teach them the importance of watering. Short on time and space? You could even start with a pre-planted, potted herb garden — some contain veggies, like tomatoes and eggplant and come with cages already around them.
Tara: Well each year there are, of course, new varieties of edibles that are introduced to the market, but there are also some that have been around for ages that I’ve never planted before. Those are the “new-to-me edibles” This year, I’m growing okra and lemon cucumbers and hardy kiwis, which I’ve never planted before. Last year I grew fingerling potatoes for the first time and they were the best potatoes I’ve ever tasted!
What are your favourite garden edibles to grow?
Tara: I LOVE tomatillos, tomatoes and garlic. Those are always my bumper crops. I also love fresh herbs, like basil, which I make into pesto, and various mints (planted in pots, not the garden because they’re voracious spreaders) for tea.
Kashi’s Plant it Forward initiative is a great idea! What is their commitment?
Tara: Kashi has partnered with Evergreen to create and tend 18 community garden across Canada. Originally Kashi had committed to donating up to $50,000 to the initiative, but recently they announced they’d be donating an extra $10,000. The program has also been renewed for next year, so the initiative will be able to expand to more cities across the country.
This video was made in support of the Plant it Forward Initiative. For every share, Kashi will donate $1 to this initiative.