Tips to Get Your Family Garden Growing

Gardening is having a moment.

Families that previously had no time or interest in getting their hands dirty are thinking about planting flowers and veggies in the backyard, in containers or even finding urban garden space to use.

It doesn’t surprise Kathy Johnson, teacher and school programs director for Chicago Botanic Garden, who says it is an interactive activity to do as a family while social distancing. Plus, growing your own food means less that needs to come from the grocery store, she says.

“Not only is gardening good physical activity, but it also puts children in touch with nature,” Johnson says. “It gives them direct experience with plant life cycles, teaches them where our food comes from, is emotionally satisfying to watch something grow, and builds self-esteem and self-confidence.”

Another benefit: Kids are more likely to eat what they grow, she says.

Here are her top 3 tips.

Start small.

Think about a few containers on your patio or a small patch in the yard or raised bed.

CP suggestion: Visit family-owned Farmers Market Garden Center, 4110 N. Elston Ave., Chicago.

Plant vegetables that you like to eat and flowers that bring you joy.

Some easy vegetables include sweet pea, green beans, cherry tomatoes and carrots (try a small variety). Herbs like dill, thyme and oregano are easy. To help pollinators like butterflies and bees, grow marigolds, coreopsis, purple coneflower and New England Aster. If you want to attract Monarch butterflies, grow milkweed.

CP suggestion: Visit The Growing Place Garden Center, 25W471 Plank Road, Naperville.

Keep a journal. 

As a family, write down what you planted and when. Then record when they sprout, grow leaves, bloom and are ready to harvest. Adding sketches or poems about the plants along the way will make it more memorable.

CP suggestion: Visit chicagobotanic.org/family_activity_guide.


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This article also appeared in Chicago Parent’s June 2020 magazine

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