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Monday Mom challenge: Plan your family garden

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

A growing project for a growing family

How many times, as you have started the annual spring yard work and cleaning, have you thought, “This year, I am going to plant a garden.” But then spring activities get in the way and it never quite happens. This year, start planning your gardening before the spring yard clean up even begins. Start planning your family garden now!

family gardening

A summer garden is a great family activity, from planting the seeds right up through harvesting the flowers or food. But if you've never done it before, it can feel a little daunting. Or if you have, it can be hard to keep on top of it. Then there are those of us who tried, but it just didn't seem to work out -- too few of what we wanted and too many weeds to pull. Planning early can head off some of those challenges and make this the best family garden year yet.

Flowers or vegetables? Where?

First thing's first, decide what you are going to grow. Are you looking for a garden full of color or some vegetables to supplement the family's summer dining? You don't have to choose one or the other. You can have both! But you do have to decide where your garden will be located.

If you are going for veggies, you need a spot with sun -- lots and lots of sun. If you are going for flowers, it all depends on the kind of flowers you want to grow. While many flowers need sun, some do better in partial sun conditions, or even shade.

And if you don't have a yard, can you still garden? Yes, you can! Container gardening makes the fun of the growing season available to urban dwellers. Turn a sunny window or small balcony into your garden space.

Use your resources

If you've never planted a garden before, take advantage of all available resources to learn what you need to do to get growing. Online? Check. The library? Check. Local garden club? Check. The nice gentleman at the local garden center? Check. Your next door neighbor? Check. Help -- and inspiration -- is all around you. And gardeners tend to be nice people who like to share their wealth of knowledge. Start by asking what growing zone you live in and ask what plants do particularly well there.

Get the kids involved

Gardening is a great family activity and kids love to help. From planning out the rows of veggies to choosing what color of flower to grow, planning and planting a family garden gets everyone excited. And? The kids don't have to know they are learning a little science along the way. Shhhh!

Start indoors

For many vegetables -- and if you live in an area with a short growing season -- starting seeds indoors in advance of your region's last frost date is a great way to get a head start on the gardening season. While a grow light and heating mat will help your seeds sprout more quickly, if you just use that sunny (and well-insulated) window, you should be fine to start. If you really get into gardening, pick up a grow light and mat for next year.

Put tasks in the calendar

Let's be honest: Sometimes initial enthusiasm fades with time and summer busyness. But if you put regular garden tasks like weeding and fertilizing on your calendar, you're less likely to forget! Just like Tuesday is library day, Wednesday can be weeding day.

Reap the benefits

It may be hard to wait -- and at times the effort may drag -- but as soon as you start cutting fresh flowers for the breakfast table or when you have your taste of a Caprese salad made with still-warm tomatoes and basil from your family garden, you will know this effort was worth it. And the look on your kids faces when they eat the best sweet pepper ever, just minutes off the vine? Well, it won't be long before you're planning next year's garden.

More on family gardening


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