Why You Should Grow a Garden As a Parent

Why And How to Grow A Garden with your Kids This Summer.
With the many demands on us as parents to think about starting a garden with your child may seem like a daunting task, but I will tell you that it may worth the initial effort for the way it eases and connects you and your child. In today’s podcast, I share some ways and ideas on how to approach this but also WHY you should grow a garden as a parent. I share why the garden may just the secret weapon for us as to raise resilient, empathetic, and grateful children. 
You see when I was my son’s age I spent many summer days wandering the rows of my grandfather’s garden. The beans. The broccoli. I am sure I was no help, but I remember it all like it was yesterday. It is one of those glowy memories in my childhood, you know what I mean? I remember the days so well as if they were yesterday. My childhood years birthed a passion and love for growing things because of my grandfather and then eventually my own parents.
When I decided I wanted to be a mother, I knew that my children needed that. More importantly, I knew I needed it. I spent most of my adult life searching for depth and meaning in how the world moved and shifted while I am on the Earth and it never failed to amaze me how my plants had these clear answers. The summer I learned I was pregnant with my son, I remember planting tomatoes and potting peppers on our back porch in Raleigh, North Carolina. The smell of the tomatoes was one of the only things I could stand smelling. An early sign to me something was off and a positive test revealed the truth. The smell to me was like going back to my grandfather’s garden. It was comforting.
You see I knew the power of the garden even when my son grew in me that summer and fall in Raleigh. When I knew he was coming I gave him my grandfather’s name who had passed when he was far too young. I have always hoped my grandfather’s love and passion for growing things would pass to him, but I soon realized that a name and a story was only half of the way this would inspire a life of growing your food and connecting with nature.
Why And How to Grow A Garden with your Kids This Summer.
Then when he arrived I knew I needed to go home to the place that gave me my own love for Mother Earth. I didn’t know what I was truly craving honestly till I stepped on our land one afternoon while little Hayes slept away at about 6 months old. The summer heat making the smell of the sandy soil full of wild Star of Aster, Sumac, and juniper become fragrant. The sound of the Beech trees shaking in the wind from the lake just over the hills. This was it. From there we waited till the timing was right to put in a garden. We had a small garden at our rental we didn’t even live at year around (because that is how you rent in the north after all). We put in two raised beds and my son and I planted it all when he was all but 18 months old. It was magic but not pretty whatsoever. It was my first garden as a mother and it was wild with weeds and the tomatoes got blight and then my son destroyed every single thing in the garden. We had nothing to really harvest by the time we returned in August to the beds even with tending from time to time. It was perfect though. He began a relationship with my son and I and the garden. A relationship I knew was important despite aesthetics. The garden would provide us a harvest far greater than I could have ever dreamed in that year.
When we finally put in our garden here on our land nearly a year after we moved in it was then I knew its power. I started realizing its gift as I navigated grief and unknown about another pregnancy it was a healer and a connector for us all that summer. Then the next year when I carried my daughter who I didn’t know would ever be ours. The garden marked the time in our lives as she grew in me and our son grew as well. I knew the final harvest would mark the time she would be coming. Sure enough weeks after our first deep frost she arrived on a sunny day a week before Thanksgiving. Then last year the garden was our lifeline and our whole life as a family during the raging days of the pandemic. It held us and amazed us on the days we needed it most. We ate from it. We shared the extras with neighbors and family and friends. We celebrated and cried amongst her. Now, the garden this year holds joy and hope of brighter days in another way. We have learned her gifts are deeper than we imagined. She is giving us more than we ever knew as parents and humans. We tend to her. We have hard convos amongst her. We learn from her. We plant seeds and together as a family harvest far more than we need. The lessons are endless and it is how I knew this may be the greatest tool as parents no matter the size. The garden may simply be where we can unfold the hardest things in life to our children and give us a common ground to stand on.
During this Earth Month, I wanted to talk about this because the humans we raise in this world are as important as the steps we take in the present to do our part to shift the trajectory of climate change. In fact, I think what is beautiful about the garden as a parent is that not only are we making an impact on the climate by growing one but we then show and set a legacy ahead for another generation. But a garden as a parent is more than just a way to teach another generation to care about a garden…. Let me explain with the below ways that growing a garden is so important as a parent:
Why And How to Grow A Garden with your Kids This Summer.
  • The garden is full of entertainment:

    When we talk about wanting to mix things up and do something new, the garden with our family is that. We prep the kids and head outside. I garden away and keep an eye on the kids while they dig up worms and catch bugs. Hours pass and it is dinner time. There are many many many days from spring to fall where there isn’t one electronic device turned on in our home other than Mike and I’s phones for work. The garden and the outdoors even if a small backyard is the greatest source for entertainment. Many times I set up an easel or a bowl of water and some cups and plastic animals. The kids are a mess but I get time for myself weeding and meditating while they had a wonderful time. Everyone heads to bed that night washed of the mud and dirt that was layered on them from a day in the sun and we all sleep incredibly well as the wind blows in cool the windows.

  • The garden teaches patience and the reward of hard work:

    Our son loves seed starting time and he comes down every day to see which one is new and popped up we check the soil dampness and turn the light on or turn it off if it is a sunny warm day. He heads out to check how the plants did over the night. Then when we finally harvest in 60-90 days he feels so much gratitude for our hard work. It is simple. At first, he was anxious about when things would happen, but now he sees it takes time. When those veggies land on his plate and our baskets are full he sees the good that comes from consistent hard work.

  • The garden teaches gratitude:

    With that idea of patience and watching something grow comes a thankfulness for our food. When he sees the time and work we put into it all, he feels gratitude. When we eat the tomatoes from our garden he knows not only where they came from and most likely picked them himself but he thanks the plant as we go. He knows the importance of the bees in being a part of the process and how we protect them from birds. He even knows the importance of different birds in our landscape and the types of birds they are and he thanks them for helping bring new seeds. There is a sense of gratitude for the food and the natural world because we watched it through its process.

Why And How to Grow A Garden with your Kids This Summer.

  • The garden teaches grace and empathy:

    Things don’t always go as planned and in the garden that isn’t just potential, it is a reality in every sense. Often we experience failure and things don’t go as planned. When this happens it offers a gentle and simple opportunity to show empathy to ourselves and grace as we learn. I see it now more than ever in him. When our seeds didn’t start with a batch of marigolds, he said…”Mama don’t be hard on yourself we can try again.” This empathy doesn’t just extend to the human or self it extends to the natural world. When we are involved in nature our feelings and desire to protect it increase. Our knowledge goes up about something and as a result, our adoration and love for it does as well giving us a desire to protect and conserve its beauty and gifts.

  • Your child and you will eat better and cook more together:
    Growing food together allows you to connect over food. Your child’s interest to eat the things they grew is 100% natural. It is curiosity. When people ask me how to get your kid to eat more fresh food, I say…”Grow a garden and give them ownership in.” And I mean give them space to grow things themselves and on their terms. GIve them choice and independence. Fill a grow bag and have them go to the farm market to pick out their own starts. Show them the cost if they are old enough and then help them plant them and learn about them. Let them try it all and see how it all works. When they harvest a sugar snap or cucumber you can near bet they will be eager to eat it when they pick it. It is a natural instinct. As a result, when you grow a garden you will also have to cook those things. This allows them to learn with you and see that you can try new things at any age.

  • It gives you as a parent a place of connection with your child:
    Some of my greatest memories lie in the garden and around food. Sure there are others on trips or the time my mom got us lost in the mountains of North Carolina or the days my brother and I spent trying to beat Zelda in the winter months in Michigan, but I also have my greatest childhood memories in the garden. I also have found my greatest memories as a parent is to watch my kids enjoy the garden and the natural world. My favorite photos and everything. But also the thing is if I am honest I am not very good at sitting on the floor and playing unless it involves coloring or crafts or building a massive block tower. I am a great parent when I garden though and I find some of the best moments and conversations happen right there in the soil together.

Why And How to Grow A Garden with your Kids This Summer.

I truly believe that if we choose to grow a garden it doesn’t just make us better parents because it is calming and gives us a place of connection, but it leaves a legacy that far extends beyond what is really asked of us. The garden teaches so many things that can be hard to really accomplish or feel like it takes TONS of consistent work, but when we have the garden as a tool, many of these things happen with little effort. Not only are we leaving a generation with soil under their fingernails, but we leave a legacy of happier and healthier humans with reverence and respect for the natural world and where their food comes from.

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Bringing us back to nature through the garden and community.

I’m Megan Gilger and I am glad to have you here growing with me as we garden, live seasonally, and pursue an eco-lifestyle.

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