Living in Vermont, you get to know what real New England winters are all about. While I am a big fan of the snow, by the end of March, even I welcome the arrival of spring, when we can put away our skis, pack up our winter gear, and spend our days in a t-shirt basking in the warmer weather. The positive effects of being outside in the long sunny days cannot be overstated, and I encourage our kids to be outside as much as possible, mud and all.
Spring also marks the time when my wife and I go back and forth about whether or not we're going to plant a garden. There is no question that we love the idea. Who doesn't love of fresh vegetables grown by your own two hands?
On the other hand, I am not a gardener. For a city boy like myself, there are seemingly insurmountable obstacles to having a garden, particularly the issue of time — not to mention nature's continual onslaught of pests, critters, unpredictable weather, blight, and my personal favorite, weeds. It's enough to make me and my wife throw our hands up in frustration and walk away.
But we don't.
We plant a garden every year, and I have found the key is having realistic expectations and not to get too ambitious. A garden can be as large or small as you want, and there are measures you can take to help temper nature's wrath — keeping in mind that we can never completely control her. On this note, gardening can teach us a good lesson in being adaptable and going with the flow (and on this weekend leading up to Earth Day, it's the perfect way to celebrate).
If my own testimonial isn't encouragement enough, here are 17 reasons that might sway you.
1. Spend quality time together.
You can't put a price on the time with your kids, especially when you're doing something fun and rewarding.
2. Be outside.
The milder weather beckons families to get outside and make the most of the sun and warmth.
3. Get dirty.
What kid doesn't love to get dirty? And with mom and dad's approval, no less!
4. Teach kids about hard work.
Gardening is not always easy, but the hard work can be fun (especially in the dirt) and productive.
5. Teach kids where their food comes from.
Knowing the source of your food is a growing movement away from processed junk food.
6. Maybe help your immune system.
Learn more about the Hygiene Hypothesis.
7. Use your compost.
We compost food waste, which makes perfect sense. Before gardening, we weren't sure what to do with it.
8. Turn off your TV.
What better way to get off the couch and away from your TV than tending your garden?
9. Encourage healthy eating.
Growing fresh produce is a great way to encourage eating them, especially with children.
10. Enjoy the fruits of your labors (no pun intended).
Kids seem more inclined to eat vegetables that they've grown.
11. Feel proud.
All that hard work and effort manifests itself in tangible produce that a gardener can feel proud about.
12. Supplement your income.
There is a growing demand for fresh local produce, and could be a potential source of income.
13. Be a good neighbor.
Sharing excess fruits and vegetables with friends and neighbors is a great community endeavor.
14. Teach kids responsibility.
Tending the garden will teach kids about the importance of showing up and doing your job.
15. Learn to adapt and be flexible.
Nature is unpredictable, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the garden, so just go with the flow.
16. Connect with the seasons.
Having a garden is a four-season activity and can be filled with fun and anticipation.
17. Have fun.
If anything is all work and no fun, then people, especially kids, will not want to do it. So know your limitations and keep it fun.