Let Your Garden Be Your Guide

As Mother Nature begins to welcome us back into her warm embrace, aka spring, I'm thinking about gardens. A vegetable garden is one of many dreams on a list I've been chipping away at for many years. Some might scoff at that — because dreams are meant to be grandiose, right? Says who?

Over here in my world, dreams are like tomatoes: they come in a variety of sizes. That way, you can pick off a few small ones while the big ones are still ripening. Dreams and gardens are made for each other. 


How Does Your Garden Grow?

My garden dream first came true when I was 40 years old — talk about a late bloomer. (I would eventually become a Tower Gardener, but I'll get to that later.) My home's previous owner had already set up a plot on the side of our large yard, and she had also bequeathed beautiful landscaping full of annuals and perennials. Basically, this house was begging me to be a gardener. Spoiler alert: I did much better with the edible garden than the aesthetic one. Score one for seed-to-table living.

At the time, my now nine-year-old son, Zion, was in first grade. Ripe for learning about plants, he really dug our garden, figuratively and literally. There was plenty of touching and smelling and digging. We were growing tomatoes, kale, zucchini, green beans, and peppers. He'd leave the garden brown with dirt and green with chlorophyll. Each day, he was right there while I watered, culled, and harvested. He was thrilled to see the cycle of growing and eager to help with the work that went into it. Our garden was not only great for exploring science, but also a lesson in diligence. 

Your Tower Garden is the same. Make your first-grader your everyday assistant. As you tend to the plants and watch them grow together, pay attention to all the teachable moments. A garden is one of the most versatile teaching tools for homeschooling parents. 

Know Your L.A.W.N.

At the first-grade level, my son knew plants had seeds, stems, leaves, and flowers. (Check out this Tower Garden first-grade activity on plant parts.) However, he was much more interested in the growth mechanism, which made sense given his analytical nature. In that vein, as you teach your kids with Tower Garden, take note of the things they gravitate toward. It's a good way to see how their interests match up to their blossoming personalities. 

I remember Zion proudly announcing that plants need light, air, water, and nutrients (L.A.W.N.) to grow. For kids in the 6-7 age range, plants are a great way to teach memorization with acronyms like L.A.W.N. You can also rev up their sensory, vocabulary, and writing skills by asking them to describe how the plants smell, feel, look, and taste. 

Zion was especially into the feel of a cherry tomato popping in his mouth. He also had an affinity for hot peppers. That would have been unusual given his young age, but he'd already had some practice with my dad's canned Italian peppers. He was not so much into the taste of raw kale, but it was a fun experiment!

Grow Where You're Planted

After two summers of amateur gardening, we ended up trading our home for one with much less yard. Although many people who have yard space choose Tower Garden over traditional gardening, it's a no-brainer when your yard stretches the boundaries of what actually qualifies as one. If you live in an apartment or in a house with little to no green space, you can still have the benefit of growing your own herbs, vegetables, and flowers. 

Whether you transition from a soil garden to a vertical one, or even if you started out with the latter, keep in mind location is a teaching tool in and of itself. The Tower Garden website offers a great lesson on all the places a garden can grow. My son was awed by the fact that "nutrients" doesn't necessarily mean soil and that a "garden" can grow right there in your own home. 

 

Our Tower Garden will be an integral part of our lives as I continue his and his little brother's  education in healthy living. In a future article, I'll give you the lowdown on the everyday reality of how that plays out. (Hint: Look up the Greek myth of Sisyphus. Mom-ing ain't easy.) In the meantime, appreciate your garden for all its lessons, big and small. 

As an aside: Because I have a 90/10 policy with food (mostly healthy, a little indulgent), I'm now the most un-fun mom who has ever existed.

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