Get your kids away from the screens – and encourage an appreciation of local produce – with your very own vegetable patch.
Just before COVID-19 restrictions hit Western Australia back in March, the uncertainty of what restrictions would actually be like motivated me to start our own vegetable patch. I wasn’t panic buying or attempting to go off-the-grid, but like many parents, I worried my kids would be stuck to their electronic devices if they didn’t have a project to focus on, as their extra-curricular activities, such as swimming, had been cancelled.
Both my children wish to become farmers (when they ‘grow up’), so starting a vegetable patch seemed like a good idea to encourage part of their farming passion, and a great excuse to get them outside into the fresh air.
We were lucky the supply of local produce didn’t stall during these times (and we still got to have our weekly shop with our valued local green grocer), so starting a vegetable patch was not about trying to grow all of our own fresh produce – but served as a very rewarding and positive learning experience for the entire family. It is a great way for children to learn about where their food actually comes from, and teaches them responsibility and patience. The kids certainly have a greater appreciation of the work of our local food producers and farmers since discovering the love and effort it takes to grow a few simple vegetables at home.
So, why not start your own vegetable patch? As I discovered, the process was easy:
We had a neglected garden bed in full-sun, so it was the perfect spot to start a vegetable patch, with very little effort. Once I removed the plants, I added rich compost from our compost bin system, and we were ready to plant.
I decided to start simple with seedlings that were fast growers (including cherry tomatoes, strawberries, snow peas and lettuce) so the kids would see the ‘fruits’ of their efforts quite quickly. The kids loved being part of the planting process – and watering and caring for the plants was a great daily distraction, as they were home learning at the time.
What worked, what didn’t
The lettuce was a great success; they grew quickly and we were able to pick off a few leaves when needed. The snow peas and cherry tomatoes were a hit with the kids. It was amazing to watch them playing outside, to see them stop to pick and munch on a snow pea or two. Score! They were eating extra veggies, even away from the dinner table.
We lost the strawberries pretty quickly to some creepy crawlies, but amazingly we ended up with an unexpected crop – a pumpkin plant that self-spouted from the compost. The pumpkins took much longer to grow, but we ended up with four Jap pumpkins; what a bonus!
Grow your own!
You don’t need much space to get the benefits of a vegetable patch. Even the tiniest courtyard can accommodate a couple of hanging or small pots, with herbs or strawberries. See what works for the space you have available and what works for your family.