Gardening is one of the best ways to encourage healthy eating among children. Active involvement in the growing and harvesting of their food can help kids develop more positive attitudes towards fresh fruits and vegetables, allowing them to better recognize preferences and increase their willingness to try new foods. Gardening helps children realize that their actions have consequences both good and bad and lead to a greater understanding of cause and effect. It also helps them learn responsible decision-making, as they watch something they took care of grow, leading to a feeling of accomplishment and self-worth.
If outdoor gardening appears to be a challenge – whether due to space, climate or something else – you can grow indoors with items right in your own kitchen!
Use your imagination. Before jumping into any project, it’s important to gather everything you need to be successful and create a plan. Gather tools, soil, and get creative with containers you have on hand. Don’t let limited space stop you from exploring a green thumb. Indoor or patio gardens not only are a fun way of bringing the outdoors in… they also serve as awesome houseplants and a science lesson all in one.
Start with scraps. Don’t toss it – plant it! Many of the scraps leftover from fruits and veggies are all that’s needed to get an indoor garden started. Plus, it’s a simple step towards creating a greener (eco-friendly) home by cutting down on food waste!
Which scraps grow the best? There are many veggies that can grow from the top, seeds or base with just a little bit of water. Children will be amazed to watch something often tossed in the trash take root and turn into something they recognize and can later replant (again!) or eat.
- Lettuce: Almost magic – lettuce can be regrown from its base with a container of shallow water, a sunny spot and a little time. Once lettuce begins to sprout – transfer it to the soil and imagine the yummy sandwiches or salads that await!
- Celery: Save the base of your celery stalk and place the root side down in a shallow container or on a plate with water. Allow to sit in a sunny window and watch for roots in 5-7 days. Once rooted, transfer to a container or garden bed.
- Carrot: While carrot tops might not be a popular snack, they can be planted to grow yummy carrot greens that can be a replacement for parsley or added to salads and sauces. Similar to lettuce and celery – place the tops in a shallow container of water and allow roots to form in a sunny spot for about a week. Transfer to soil and watch the greens flourish!
These are just a few – take a look at what vegetables you have on hand and find out their growing possibilities!
You can sow your own seeds…no packs needed. Growing a garden from seeds is a fun and easy way to understand the life cycle of a plant and all the necessary ingredients needed to grow – sunlight, water and a little TLC. Simply pull some of the seeds from a tomato or pepper scrap in the kitchen and plant. Be sure to use a potting soil mix made from peat moss (or coco peat), vermiculite, and/or perlite. Some mixes also contain added nutrients in the form of slow-release fertilizer or mineral amendments, and these can work just as well. Use a container that has good drainage and find a sunny location.
Reach new heights with the beginnings of a tree. While these take a little longer, some seeds from kitchen scraps can be germinated and over time grow into fruit-bearing trees!
- Avocado: Note: you’ll need 3 toothpicks. Clean and remove the seed coat – an adult should do this with a knife. Locate the top/bottom of the pit. The bottom has a small circle of a slightly different color. Position the pit with the bottom down and insert 3 toothpicks in the top third of the pit. Use the toothpicks to balance the pit in a jar or other fairly narrow glass of water. Make sure the water reaches about halfway up the pit. After about eight weeks you should see a root and a vertical sprout appear. Plant with a nutrient-dense growing mix and transplant your new plant into your outdoor garden, a container outside on your patio or balcony, or keep it indoors in a sunny location.
You can follow a similar process with apple, peach, lemon and cherry seeds. Depending on the climate where you live, over the years your tree might begin to bear fruit! If not – that’s okay. It’s just as fun tending to its growth and seeing your hard work pay off with new life.
- Choose seeds or items that are adaptable and fast-growing. Little minds aren’t always the most patient. Beans are great to start a garden, as they take off quickly.
- Remember to protect your windowsills or wooden tables near windows from water damage. Use individual saucers for your pots or large plastic tubs or bins.
- Use books or other resources to tie the gardening experience into the growing process. Allow children to document their observations with a journal of drawings or words to describe what they are seeing.
- Herbs are great for growing indoors and don’t need to be moved outdoors. Basil, chives, parsley, mint and rosemary are all easily grown, started, and continued indoors. These are great for locations that don’t have a lot of room outdoors or the opportunity to grow outside due to weather conditions or lack of space.
- Get cooking in the kitchen with your harvest! Try out a new recipe or find ways to incorporate it into some of your favorites.