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A Garden Anyone Can Grow

It’s that time again. Time to plan the family garden with delicious produce you’ll pick throughout the year to provide the dinner table with bountiful salads and tempting garnishes. by TFM Staff

It’s that time again. Time to plan the family garden with delicious produce you’ll pick throughout the year to provide the dinner table with bountiful salads and tempting garnishes. Time for long strolls through nurseries, choosing a color palette for your borders and dreaming, dreaming, dreaming. Hopefully the dreams blossom into reality, but how many of us have had the experience of planning out a gorgeous garden only to watch the seedlings wither because we just don’t have the time to keep it up?

The garden is a perfect antidote to our withering attention spans, which, as reported recently in the New York Times, have decreased from 12 seconds to eight. A garden forces you to pay at least a little bit of attention every day. When so much in our lives offers an immediate response, a garden rewards patience and dedication.

So, where to start? Happily, we discovered that Tallahassee is home to a number of family-friendly nurseries that provide us not only the materials and ideas, but also the helpful guidance that can keep us on the path to gardening success. On this occasion, we consulted Tallahassee Nurseries’ Joshua Olive. He loaded us up with good info and suggestions. It’s all part of his job in keeping people from disaster. (Apparently, there are a number of us who set out with great intentions but end up feeling discouraged from ever trying again. I mean, did you know you should keep succulents like cacti in direct sunlight and water sparingly?)



According to Josh, considering the scale of our garden is the most critical starting point. Even container gardening, if not planned to fit within the time and space available, can result in disappointment. He recommended that I start small if I am new to gardening. Likewise, keeping my selection to a few vegetables and those that are a bit easier to grow is a good idea. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and beans might be a better choice than corn, eggplant or broccoli.



Unless I am using a pre-mixed soil, a soil test would not be a bad idea. At first I thought this might be a bit too complicated, but once again, Josh provided some needed guidance. “It’s a common misconception and one that we are trying to overcome by providing more information and educational opportunities.” As it turns out it’s really pretty simple. An inexpensive soil test kit will do the trick. Adding any needed soil supplements like organic fertilizer and working them into the soil is a matter of a bag or two of materials and a sturdy shovel and steel rake. Don’t forget some good gloves.


This is the part that most of us get wrong. Veggies need full sun and consistent watering to produce well. And over-watering is as detrimental as under-watering. If you are growing from seed, consult the seed container for recommendations. If you are buying plants, consult the nursery. Josh recommends starting with established plants for the novice.


When it comes to maintaining your motivation, getting children involved right at the beginning is magical. Giving them a part in the entire project is not only good for them in learning where food comes from but also in discovering their own ability and how fun it is to do it. Josh says that they see this more and more with younger families bringing their children. “They make it a complete experience that becomes part of their family’s fun things to do.” For your own sake, making it a family project means that when you just don’t feel like watering or pulling weeds, you’ve got some partners that can share in it with you. Of course the
pay off comes when your family shares in the bounty of your efforts!

Tips for gardening with younger children

Be sensitive to your child’s age. Planting a packet of seeds and one or two tomato or pepper plants may seem small to you, but to a child 2 to 4 years old, it’s a big

Caring for a small space well is better than caring for a larger space poorly. In like manner, growing miniature varieties may be easier for small children to relate
to and understand.

Letting your child help prepare the soil is a great way to get them emotionally involved. Digging with a big spoon can be great fun for younger children and includes them in a fundamental way.

For children 5 to 8 years old, let them try a larger garden with a greater variety of full-sized plants, such as tomatoes, peppers, lettuce or other greens. Choose
plants that appeal to sight, feel and smell.

If you are planning to grow a large garden of your own, mark off a section of your big garden just for your child to emphasize the child’s ownership of the garden
and the vitality of their involvement.

To broaden appreciation for children of other cultures, you also can grow vegetable and herb plants for use in different ethnic dishes such as Asian, Mexican, American Indian, African American and European.

It’s fun to go to the nursery and select one or two items you’ve not seen grow, but like to eat. Experiment with growing something new. Consult your nursery professional for recommendations that fit your circumstances and plans.

Look for disease and pest-resistant plants for a child’s garden. Children love to touch, and fingers often end up in their mouths, so organic and pesticide-free plants are safest. Vegetables that are fairly problem-free include beets, carrots, cucumbers, onions, peas, radishes, spinach and rhubarb.

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