Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources
Great Family Projects: How Does Your Garden Grow? -Jennifer Elia

Great Family Projects: How Does Your Garden Grow?


It’s time to start planning for your garden and learning to bloom this spring. Jennifer Elia has seven tips on how gardening has helped her curriculum grow.

Growing a garden is a lot of work, but it also is a great family project that can include everyone.

Unlike many projects, everyone from the youngest to the oldest can do something. Even a toddler can plant a seed and water a plant.

This is also a wonderful learning experience. There is so much to learn in growing your own food, no matter how big or small your garden is, even a large pot with some bean plants.

Add the subject of gardening to your curriculum this spring and watch the learning grow. Lessons need not come in books.

1. Plan together.

Let everyone take ownership by helping to make decisions: The saying is it takes a village to raise a child. I don’t agree; however, it takes a family to raise a garden.

Building and successfully growing a productive garden is more than one person can do when expending so much energy raising children and keeping a home. Since homeschool parents already have their hands full, enlist the help of the entire family to do the job.

Not only will having more hands make the work lighter, but it will also create ownership for your children.

A lot of gardening is planning. You must plan your seeds, when to plant, materials to use, and supplies needed.

When we sat down to plan what to grow, it took much longer than if I had done it myself and some choices differed from what I originally thought, but it got the children involved from the beginning and led them to want to make the garden succeed.

2. Learn about companion planting and map out your garden.

After you have decided what to grow, figure out what grows well together. The art of companion planting not only helps in planning what to put in each bed, but it also works to protect and support what you plant.

There are plants that can help keep away pests. Others encourage beneficial insects. There are even plants that act like cheerleaders, encouraging their neighbors to grow.

This is an excellent research project for your school this spring. Once you have compiled the lists of what grows well together and what doesn’t, sit down and revise your list of what seeds and plants to buy.

Next, create a map of your garden, showing where each vegetable, herb, flower, or fruit will be planted. Discuss why you chose a particular spot for each and what pairing might not work. You now have a vision for the family to follow.

3. Research your plants–how to grow them, natural remedies to problems, how and when to harvest.

Besides companion planting, learn more about what you are growing. I have too often done my research on the back end, instead of up front. I learned it is best to know, from the beginning, exactly what each crop will need from seed to harvest.

Keep a notebook with all your information. My plan, this year, is to create a binder with our maps and plans. I also want to include a sheet for each crop with information on growing, remedies, preventive measures, and how/when to harvest.

This will prevent duplicate work throughout the season, and (I hope) lend itself to being more proactive when issues arise. Creating these sheets is a wonderful learning experience for the children and will help complete the task sooner.

4. Calculate supplies

put those math skills to work: It isn’t as much that the children need extra practice in math, as it is important for them to see how their math skills apply to real life. There is so much to consider when calculating supplies–especially for a new garden. Size, plant needs, climate, and common pests will determine what you need for your garden to thrive.

Break out the tape measure, research supplies online, and assign each child a supply, or supplies, to compute. Remember to figure out how much it will cost and how you will come up with the money. Money still doesn’t grow on trees!

5. Give each person charge of a garden chore and a plant

Last year, we moved to a larger house with a much larger yard. We could finally build a big garden to grow many vegetables. We mapped out an 800 sq. ft. garden with an additional 200 sq. ft. tea and herb garden to provide for us but also attract beneficial insects.

Digging that area and building beds was A LOT of work. We all had to pitch in and had many very tiring days. However, we were so pleased once our garden was complete and ready to plant.

Digging a garden and building a fence is a monumental task, but that isn’t the end of the work. Once seeds are planted, there is watering and weeding, fertilizing and pruning… the list goes on and on. Putting each person in charge of one task helps get the work done efficiently. It also can help with discovering problems, since the person will be more apt to realize when something is amiss.

Letting each child choose a plant, or even an entire bed, to tend personally will teach them much about biology. It will also bring them closer to the lifecycle of their food and create a level of investment in the garden’s success.

My very reluctant vegetable eater suddenly developed a voracious appetite for green beans (his least favorite vegetable) when he helped me grow them for the first time several years ago. I was pleased he wanted to help and was eating vegetables.

I was however, a little dismayed, when the garden patch became his personal outdoor buffet–so much for making green beans for dinner! Make sure your budding horticulturalist understands that, even though he is in charge of a plant (or plants) their harvest still must be shared with the family!

6. Find recipes for your harvest and enjoy them together

Once the fruits of your labor begin to roll in, learn all the delectable ways your harvest can be enjoyed. Another research project is to compile recipes. You could even set up a taste test and have the family rate each recipe. Discuss what worked and what didn’t or what you would change for next time. You might discover your family’s new favorite meal.

Trying new foods with vegetables and herbs fresh from the garden isn’t just an exciting opportunity, but it also teaches your taste buds to enjoy good food. Be adventurous; you may discover you really like Brussels sprouts and beets.

7. Preserve your bounty to keep the goodies coming all winter

If you live in a temperate zone, like we do, the growing season is only a small portion of the year. Harvest time is fabulous for vegetables aplenty–but then comes the winter months, where nothing is growing. Also, sometimes, you can only eat so much zucchini. Learning to preserve some of what you grow will help feed your family and eliminate waste.

We have perfected our freezing techniques for many vegetables. Last year, we experimented with drying and filled our pantry with teas and herbs.

Our next endeavor is canning–I hope to tackle that this summer!

Do you have a garden? Maybe a window box of herbs? Whatever you are planting, let the kids join in for lessons that will last a lifetime.

About Jennifer Elia

Jennifer Elia
Jennifer is a homeschooling mom of four with three tiny saints in Heaven. She is married to her high school sweetheart and together they are striving to keep their family headed for Heaven.

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