(BPT) - Growing your own garden is a popular pastime that cuts grocery bills and puts fresh produce within arm's reach. But to parents it's so much more than that. Gardening is a trending family activity that provides plenty of teachable moments, and it also promotes positive characteristics like self reliance and stewardship of the earth.
'You don't have to be a green thumb to start a garden at home,' says Kevin Bryant, a garden enthusiast and director of national marketing at Tractor Supply Company. 'It's a fantastic activity for families to do together that also lets parents teach valuable lessons to their children. Whether it's just a few garden boxes on the deck or a full plot with backyard chickens, families everywhere are embracing the adventure of gardening together and learning so much about nature and each other in the process.'
The recent self-reliant movement sweeping the country is highly appealing to families. Plus, growing basic vegetables, fruits and herbs at home is a viable option whether in the city, suburbs or rural areas. In fact, 29 percent of Americans obtained locally grown food in the past year from a home garden, according to a national Tractor Supply survey - and interest appears to be on the rise.
Furthermore, many families have a deep desire to improve their children's comprehension of nutrition and food resources. A whopping 89 percent of American parents agree with the statement 'My children need a better understanding of where their food comes from,' the survey found.
Now is the ideal time to start planning your garden. Consider these four steps to ensure your family gets the most out of their gardening time together:
1. Research plants
The region where you live will dictate which seeds you should plant and when. It's best to select high-yielding plants that you know will be successful, particularly if you have a small garden. Your local extension service is a great resource.
2. Decide on size
If you have a large backyard, a bigger plot might be a good option and allow you to grow a wider variety of plants. If you live in the city or a restricted area, container gardens or garden boxes are a great option for herbs, flowers and some vegetables. Don't bite off more than you can chew during the first year; starting small increases the likelihood of success, and you can always increase the size next year.
3. Go shopping
Once you have a general idea of your garden's size, location and types of plants you'd like to grow, it's time to take the family shopping. Visit a store, such as your local Tractor Supply, for seasoned advice, tools, soil, seeds, fertilizers and pest control. You can also find all the supplies necessary for raising backyard chickens, which offer a great way to eliminate backyard pests and boost the health of your garden. Additionally, the kids will love tending to the flock.
4. Make time together
Children love to get their hands dirty, so involve them in every step of the gardening process, from tilling the soil to harvesting the produce. Set a schedule for watering and weeding to teach kids responsibility. Be sure to keep an open conversation about their observations and try to answer their questions. If you don't know all the answers, explore and learn together.
'Getting outdoors, growing a garden and learning about the land is one of the best things families can do during the warm-weather months,' says Bryant. 'Plus, kids are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables when they help grow them in their own backyard. That's a win all around.'
Gardening tips for every season are available online at TractorSupply.com/KnowHow.