Plant a Garden for Fitness and Great Taste
Young people often fail to make the connection between the food products at the
grocery store with gardens, fields or livestock. Bridging this information gap by
gardening can be fun and can provide young people with a learning opportunity
as well as physical activity and delicious eating for the family.
Nurturing plants from seed to harvest inevitably leads to increased feelings of
confidence, self-esteem and pride. One need only see the beaming face of a
child who has harvested her first carrot to appreciate the value of this experience.
The child becomes empowered and motivated by the realization that hard work
and patience produce concrete, satisfying results. The garden provides a place
for children to increase physical activity, solve problems and share the fruits of
labor with friends and family.
To get started, find an area approximately 25 by 25 feet, or less. As you consider
the location of the garden plot think in terms of providing at least five basic
The garden site should receive at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. If a shaded
area is the only option, plant vegetables such as broccoli, collards, spinach and lettuce.
The closer the vegetable garden is to the back door, the more it will be visited. Gardeners
will be more inclined to keep up with planting, weeding and watering if the garden is in sight.
The exact soil type is not crucial; however, soil should be fertile and easy to till. Gardens
with heavy clay soils can be improved over a number of years by the addition of organic
matter such as leaves, manure or pine bark. Do not work the soil when it is too wet.
Including rain and the water hose, the garden needs at least one inch of water per week.
Therefore, it is essential that the garden be located near a spigot or some other water source.
Avoid locating a garden in a low spot. Many gardeners build raised beds to ensure
excellent drainage. Some may simply mound up soil in the rows 6 to 8 inches high.
Adding 6 inches of leaf mulch to the soil can easily accomplish this. Another option is to
use landscape building materials to construct a bed above ground level and fill this with
new topsoil amended with soil conditioners.
Make a garden plan. Begin by selecting favorite family vegetables to grow. If tomatoes
are a favorite vegetable, plan to plant tomatoes. If beans are a favorite, plan to plant
beans. Make a rough diagram of the garden site and a chart with planting dates as well
as a watering schedule. On the chart include information such as the kind of vegetables
to be planted, the distance between rows and plants and the amount of fertilizer to use.
Plan ahead, pick a spot, prepare the soil, plant the family garden and keep an eye out
for weeds, insects and disease problems. Then watch as your family enjoys activity and
good taste this summer.
North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension Successful Family
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