It’s high-time for planting gardens in Austin. This is one of my favorite annual rituals, as it is something that is healthy, fun, and involves the whole family. The above photo is from the very first garden I ever planted: that is to say, if someone who knew nothing about gardening can cultivate lush and prolific fruits and vegetables, you should try it, too! Having fresh food out of your own yard that you grew yourself is nourishing in so many ways.
There are a lot of great resources to learn about backyard gardening. One of the most useful for those looking to dip a toe into the experience is Square Foot Gardening. Whether you have a lot of land or just a tiny patch to devote to growing, their ideas can help you plan out a garden to maximize your yield.
Spend some time getting familiar with what will grow in your hardiness zone. As obvious as it may sound, you’ll have better results by growing crops well-suited to your climate. Also, pay attention to whether your crops are sun-loving or shade-loving, and base either your plot location or crop selection on that information.
A lot of people shy away from gardening because they think it is a lot of work. In my experience, you can do very little work after the bed-building and soil-preparation phase of the project. As one of Austin’s laziest gardeners, I can tell you that I have amazing productivity out of my garden, and I do nothing more than water it every few days, harvest crops when ripe, and smile genuinely when complimented on my hard work.
We chose to raise our bed fairly high off the ground (soil height is 24 inches, outer bed height is 30 inches) so that it would be kid-height. Gardening has been good for my kids in many ways: they’ve learned the life-cycle of the plants, they have an understanding of food sources, they know that (despite what I said above) hard work is required to provide us with food, and food that is grown is healthy for our bodies. Additionally, they also think that pulling weeds is fun….and I am happy to oblige them this delight. As kids get older, they may also like to track things like planting dates, germination time, and harvest dates. My big kid garden helper (a now-13-year-old I used to nanny when he was a toddler!) last year made a spreadsheet of our bounty. It’s amazing what kids will find fun when left to their own devices.
If you haven’t tried gardening with your kids, go for it. Is there anything better than when a kid can pick his own self-sized zucchini? I think not!