One of the things my dad has always enjoyed was his garden. And up until last year, at the ripe age of 82, my old man was still out there every day, picking at and tending to his fruit trees and large vegetable garden. His health has deteriorated in the past year, so this past weekend my brother and I went up to prepare his big garden for the summer. It was a lot of work, but we owe it to my dad. His garden has provided us with years of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Exercise your green thumb and your wallet

If you don’t live on a farm or have the space for a large garden like my dad, consider starting a little one, even in planters. There’s many benefits besides financial ones, but if you’re counting your beans, building a little garden is fairly inexpensive. You can go organic without buying organic and it can be done without the need for any fancy gardening tools – just a little bit of daily maintenance (i.e. watering, weeding, etc.). And if you have a rain barrel or a container that you can use as one, even better. Just two dollars, can get us a bag of seeds that’ll feed our little family with about 3 seasons of tomatoes. Not too bad.

There’s also plenty of health benefits that come from gardening and some experts now believe that nature helps heal, lowering blood pressure, boosting immune function and reducing stress. Check out this article from WebMD.

Gardening is a great workout. Some may be happy to know that doing general gardening activities (like digging, weeding, etc.) can burn on average 167 calories per half hour for a 155lb person and 200 calories for a 185 lb. person. But there’s nothing better than seeing what you’ve planted come to fruition (pardon the pun). You can begin to build healthy and delicious meals for your family around what you just planted and save money doing it. Ones that were grown by you, without the use of nasty chemicals.

Weed it and reap

Aside from the health benefits, the best benefit, I’d have to say, is what your kids get from it. It’s a fantastic way for your kids to learn where their food really comes from. It encourages them to get active, eat healthy, learn about nature and nutrition and most of all, it’s a great bonding experience. And they’re more likely to eat something they’ve grown.

I can remember from an early age, my dad giving me a bean seed to plant and I was to guard it and water it all summer. I was so proud of that plant. The next summer I got my neighbour (who was the same age) into a friendly competition to see who could grow the tallest bean plant. One day we had the plant-off and although his bean plant came pretty close, my plant won it in the end. “What became of the giantess and the castle, nobody knows.”

So far this year, we’ve planted tomatoes, beans, basil and chives in addition to our raspberry bush and mulberry tree. A fairly small garden in comparison what we used to have years ago. But it’s manageable for us. And we want to get our kids involved. My 3-year old loves helping us out in the garden, digging, planting flowers, something she seems to have a natural affinity for. And what kid doesn’t like to play in the dirt?

This year we set up a bean teepee for our little 3-year old to play in. She loves to hide under tables and things, so we made a little teepee out of bamboo sticks that we got from the dollar store, and planted some bean seeds all around. So, she’ll hopefully have a nice little shaded cubby she can play in – that is, if the neighbourhood rabbits don’t get to my beans first.

Gardens are for kids too, silly rabbit

Today, so many kids seem to be growing up zoned out in front of the TV or computer. But I want my own kids to embrace the summer and learn how to make their own entertainment. And encourage your kids to do the same. As a kid, I never saw indoors until the sun set. Gardening is a great way to get them outdoors and it also teaches children so many valuable lessons such as responsibility and patience – learning that a seed doesn’t grow a tree in one day; it gives them confidence; teaches them about science and sustainability; harvesting and sharing. I could go on and on.

But at the end of the day, anyone can start a little garden. Even your little ones.

Photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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