Gardening is the ultimate wholesome family activity. It is good for our planet and our health. To me, there is nothing better on a hot summer day in Charlotte than a BLT with tomatoes from your own garden whether they were grown in a pot or in the backyard.
Children love to get their hands dirty and make messes. Growing your own garden is a great way to constructively indulge their messier instincts.
When beginning your project, start small. Build your kid’s confidence with radishes, peas or beans. For the youngest gardeners, a great way to inspire love for the process is to start seeds in a clear baggie. This acts as a mini greenhouse and lets children see the plant sprout much more quickly.
In about 24 hours, you will see the seeds begin to unfurl. Tend the seedlings by keeping the paper towel moist with your spray bottle. Let the roots develop for 14-21 days, then plant in soil. Fill a planter with soil then press the seedlings gently into the earth.
Alternatively, pick a sunny spot in your yard to plant and amend the dirt with some potting soil. Sprinkle ¼ inch of soil on top and keep moist. Most pea plants will start producing in 60-70 days.
Another easy project is to plant bulbs. Tulips, hyacinth and daffodils grow quickly and reproduce on their own. You can plant them once and enjoy their scent and blooms for years! The best time to plant bulbs in Charlotte is late October through early November. The bulbs will begin to sprout early in spring and be the first to flower in your yard.
Tomatoes are a southern gardening staple. There are many different types from teeny grape tomatoes to giant heirloom tomatoes. My favorites are Romas. They are medium sized, ripen quickly and are packed with flavor.
Start your Romas as seeds indoors on a sunny windowsill. When planting anything, I assume only half will grow successfully, so I start with double the amount of seeds. Start your tomatoes indoors about six weeks before you transplant them into the ground. Wait to transplant them until after the last winter frost. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, this year in Charlotte we should wait until April 11th, 2019 to plant seedlings into the ground. Make sure you give the plants enough room to grow, they need at least a square foot per plant. Tomatoes need full sun and to be watered every other day or whenever the soil seems dry. After about 60 days, your plant will start to produce little green tomatoes.
Wait for them to ripen in the summer sun and enjoy!
Playing in the garden is a great way to spend time with your kids. It is a chance for them to learn about where their food comes from. It helps children learn about photosynthesis and the water cycle. Inspiring kids with small science experiments helps them see that science is a part of everyday life, something I strive to share with my daughter. Happy planting gardeners!