Grow A Family Veggie Garden

by Michelle Hainer

Grow A Family Veggie Garden

3 lessons your kids will learn from growing crops like lettuce, cauliflower, and broccoli

There's a reason so many families are making like the Obamas and growing their own veggies: Experts say that for every $50 spent on seeds and fertilizers, you can harvest $1,200 worth of produce. Want to jump on the wagon? It's not too late to start crops like lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, and squash. What's more, savings aren't all you can reap. If you get your kids to help, the lessons are endless, says mom of three Linda Wasser, of Winfield, PA, who grows tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, and more with her family.

The Task: Perusing the plant catalog
The Lesson: Cucumbers and tomatoes aren't the only veggies on the block. "Involving kids in the planning will expose them to more exotic foods like kohlrabi or eggplant," says Christine Kirk of the nonprofit Outdoor Education Center in Orange, CA. It will also get them reading and — if you give them a set amount of money and let them pick a few of their own seeds — budgeting for their faves.

The Task: Sowing seeds
The Lesson: Working with measurements. By reading the seed packet — and using their math skills — kids can figure out how much room their plants will need and space seeds accordingly. The three Wasser kids — Madison, 9, Timothy, 8, and Ava, 6 — use a yardstick to make sure their lettuce, green bean, and onion seeds are an inch apart.

The Task: Keeping pests away
The Lesson: In nature's web, even insects have a job to do. "If children see a ladybug chomping on a plant-eating aphid, they'll learn that ladybugs are good insects," says Kirk. You can also sneak in lessons on green living: Pass on chemical pesticides, and use natural repellents like marigolds and soap shavings.