Throughout the month of April, and specifically on April 22nd, we celebrate Earth Day. Earth Day isn’t just a day to celebrate this planet we call home; it’s also a call to action. To help inspire you to make everyday Earth Day, we can all make changes in our lives to impact the environment and make our world a better, safer place for the next generation. One choice that everyone can make is to plant a garden and grow some fresh vegetables. Whether you own an acre or just a balcony, you can plant vegetables from seed and know that you will literally be able to enjoy the fruit of your labor.
Learning how to plant fruits and vegetables can be really rewarding. Plus, kids are more likely to try fruits and veggies if they grew them. By gardening and growing plants, your kids get in touch with nature and learn to appreciate how plants grow from seeds into things we can eat. Whether you want to provide your family with nutritious food, save money, get some exercise, or just be more self-sufficient, learning to grow your own garden will give you the skills and knowledge you need to be on your way to a successful harvest.
Gardening and agriculture go hand in hand with healthy eating. When planning a garden, start by thinking about foods that adapt well to the climate you live in. For example, many vegetables that are planted in the summer produce their best flavor when harvested in the fall such as broccoli and carrots. This way you can focus on ingredients that are both flavorful and easy on your budget.
New to gardening? Start with an herb garden. Here’s how:
It’s easy to grow your own herbs, even if you don’t have a lot of space. You can start with seeds or get little plants from a store. Plant your herbs in pots or tin cans, and make sure to water them when the soil gets dry. If you put your plants in a window that faces south, they will grow faster. When the plants get bigger, your child can help you pick the leaves to use in cooking. Here are some good herbs to start with:
Cilantro grows very quickly, especially when it gets lots of sun. The leaves can be used in guacamole, tacos, nachos and salsa. Save some of the seeds from your plants so you can plant cilantro again.
There are many kinds of mint plants, each with a different flavor. Choose from spearmint, peppermint, lemon mint or even chocolate mint! You can use the leaves in tea or juice. Or, tear them into tiny pieces to add to fresh fruit or a smoothie.
Basil plants need lots of sun, so make sure to keep them in a bright window or on a porch. Basil is great in foods like spaghetti, soups and pizza.
Chives are a member of the onion family and they add a nice flavor to soups, casseroles, and baked potatoes. If you have older children, they might enjoy using safety scissors to snip the chives off the plant — it is like giving the plant a haircut!
Even if you’re not ready to take the leap and start you own garden, browse the stands at year-round, local farmers’ market [here’s a list of Michigan farm markets] and pickup seasonal fruits and vegetables, as well as local dairy, grain, meat, poultry, and eggs. (You can shop all 5 food groups at the Farmers’ Market!) Talk with the farmers and vendors to learn more about the choices available. You may find valuable ideas for selecting and preparing new ingredients such as turnip greens or spaghetti squash. Get to know your food, and your farmer, by asking questions when you visit.
Resources: USDA national farmers market directory