As you’ve seen the past month, starting a garden is HARD work!  But once your beds are finished, you are far from done!  Springtime maintenance is a daily venture, and we’ve had to adjust our already busy schedule to give that extra time to our vegetables.  The good news?  It’s FUN for the kids – it’s educational – and it’s great exercise for you!

I’ve mentioned before that we homeschool, and one thing text books can’t teach is the hands-on lesson of growing your own food.  What have my kids been learning through this whole process?

1: The concept of beneficial vs. unwanted insects.

This is a GREAT lesson for anyone wanting to teach the basics of organic gardening!   From the first day, the kids were learning how the grubs needed to go!  And the worms are welcome to stay.  To this day, my daughter still says she’s going to pitch “stupid grubbies” over the fence if she finds them.  Love it!

Ladybugs are more than welcome to stay – in fact, if we see any anywhere else in the backyard, they carefully get moved to the garden.  They eat the aphids, after all!

Remember my praying mantises at our old house?  We just had to get a new generation going in our new garden!

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Since we have a bigger yard now, we got 5 mantis egg sacs (though I suspect one fell out of its hiding place and got mowed over).  :(  But with each sac containing 50-200 mantises, we are still more than covered!

And what about those pesky caterpillars?  Sure they look gorgeous as butterflies, but when they’re chowing down on your hard earned produce, they have to go! So the kids and I have been going out at least once a day – sometimes more – to handpick them off our greens.  But wait a minute..there’s a great lesson here too: the life cycle of the butterfly!

So we kept those critters, and trapped them in a butterfly cage.  Don’t worry insect-enthusiasts, we’re feeding them fresh leaves, and providing water droplets time to time to keep them growing.  And boy are they growing!  The kids are watching them change daily – and they will be a part of the process of metamorphosis!  This, guys, is backyard science 101.  And yes, it is fun.

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What other life lessons are we learning here?

2:  Fresh, healthy food is HARD work!  But the nutritional benefits more than make up for it!  And all these vitamins and nutrients are going towards their health and growth.  And guess what else?  What you grow tastes fantastic!  After all, it’s just a few minutes old – and picked, literally, at the peak of readiness! Fact:  for the picky eaters in your family – kids are more likely to try new things or eat things they usually turn their noses up at if they were part of the growing process.  It’s worth a shot – what do you have to lose?

Aside from keeping the bad bugs away, the kids are also learning the concept of plant spacing so that roots do not fight for the space they are in – i.e. pulling up the grass and weeds that come up in the beds.  Maintenance is the never ending story here, guys. Thankfully, it’s one of those things that doesn’t really get out of hand as long as you stay on top of it.  Trust me – in our old house, I was not so diligent.  And I remember by the end of the summer, I was overwhelmed by all the tall grass (and spiders living in it!) so much, that I was afraid to go near the garden without two layers of long sleeved clothes on!  Think Jumanji-jungle.. see where I’m going?

3:  Despite healthy food being hard work, it’s a lot of FUN!  The kids get to learn about the basics of healthy soil – and how the plant uptakes the nutrients from it.  They learn about feeding the soil to keep those plants happy.  They learn about proper pH of the soil for certain plants.  They learn about plants needing sun – and water – and love (yes, love) to thrive.  And they learn that gardens make a GREAT place to play hide and seek (lol).  They are learning about bees, and the role they play in the production of our food – they learn about the concept of companion planting, and they learn..get this..responsibility.  It’s not just vegetables I’m raising here, guys.  It’s my kids.  :)

4:  Since I’m growing an herbal garden as well, the kids are going to learn about the medicinal benefits of herbs such as yarrow, plantain, chamomile, calendula, arnica, dandelion, roses, lavender, echinacea, and self-heal.  They’re going to learn how to harvest the plant – and how to use the plant to make balms, syrups, sprays, and tinctures.  First aid kits can’t always be bought at the store, guys – these are practical plants that make excellent healing tools for most minor issues and injuries.  And sharing that knowledge with your family ensures that they, too, understand how to make the most out of what you have on hand.  And that, guys, is priceless.

So, I’d like to hear your stories!  Has anyone been inspired by our garden??  Has anyone started their own garden?  If so, what did you grow?

Comment to this post to share your stories – success – or not so successful.  It’s a process, remember – but it’s not about the destination – it’s about the journey. And how much FUN you have on that journey!

Until next post – enjoy your harvests!

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Written on May 22nd, 2015 , General

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