by Triad MOM Team Member Ashleigh Welder
Do you find yourself searching high and low all over town for the healthiest, most affordable food to feed your family? For my family, we found the solution right in our own backyard. After reading about pesticides in our foods, we explored organic options for baby food and produce.
Learning how far even this food had to travel before hitting my kids’ plates, I found myself spending more time at the local farmer’s market, which provides locally-grown, delicious produce and the opportunity for my children to meet "their" farmers. As we exposed our children to the concept of growing food versus picking it off a shelf at the grocery store, the next step was clear: a backyard garden.
We try to avoid fertilizers and chemicals, since this is one reason for having a garden in the first place, but something was eating our okra before we could. We found several botanical insecticides right at our local Wal-Mart. Most of these are naturally derived from chrysanthemum flowers, which are ideally suited to protect fruits, vegetables and ornamentals, and it's more effective than planting the mums themselves.
After a little basic prep getting the soil ready in a bed, the kids’ fun begins. Our 2-year-old daughter is quite the girly-girl and usually avoids dirt, but mention the word “garden”, and she’s out the door grabbing her shovel and rake, saying “check, check”. She helps pull weeds (we have to remind her,“just the little ones!”) and water with her little watering can, and only occasionally harvests tomatoes before they’re ripe.
Our 5-year-old son is the real expert, involved in the process from the very beginning. He really feels like it’s his garden, having helped put the plants in the ground, watered them, staked them, and watched them grow. The closer we get to the harvest, the more excited he gets. Both kids are vigilant on bug patrol as well, and hate to see our hard work eaten alive. The botanical pesticides are a big help, and safe to use around our children.
Maybe the biggest surprise about family gardening for my kids has been the way they look at produce and food in general. While many children look at vegetables as the thing to avoid on the plate, my kids, both of them, come to snatch them off the cutting board (safely, of course!). They see fresh vegetables for what they are – both healthy and delicious, and the garden has given them a perspective on food that will shape their eating habits into the future.