Spring has finally arrived in Richmond, and though the cold weather has lingered, it is time to start getting some things in the ground for this year’s vegetable garden!
If you are new to gardening, it’s best to keep things simple. Choose two or three vegetables to focus on. Limiting the number of vegetables in your garden will allow you to get to know your plants well. You can pick two or three varieties of the same vegetable according to how you like to eat them. For example, if your family really loves tomatoes, try growing a marble-sized variety like Sun Gold to use in salads or on pizza and a larger variety like German Stripe for slicing. It is also good to keep versatility in mind while planning your garden and choose vegetables that can be used as ingredients in several dishes. Zucchini can be added to stir-fries, used in casseroles or baked into sweet breads. Cucumbers are great for pickling or adding to salads and cold macaroni dishes, and they lend a fantastic crunch to sandwiches. Have your children help pick out varieties. They will be excited to be involved, and their enthusiasm can carry over to the dinner table making picky eaters more inclined to try new foods.
It is also helpful for novice gardeners to choose at least one plant that requires minimal attention. Summer squash are low-maintenance plants but tend to have high yields. Self-sufficient plants keep you from feeling burdened by your garden, and the abundance of veggies make you feel like a gardening wizard! With the right conditions, just one plant can produce enough squash to keep you and your family’s bellies full with enough left over to share with the neighbors.
While planning your garden, consider growing a few herbs to help bring a bit of color and freshness to your cooking. Parsley is a hardy plant that does not require a lot of attention and can even come back after the winter. It is chock full of vitamin C and a small handful is an excellent addition to a smoothie. Basil is another wonderful herb to grow that can be used both in cooking and for adding an extra aromatic component to bouquets. Make sure to pinch off the flowers as the plant matures to keep it producing tender fragrant leaves all summer long. But leave a few flowers for the bees. They love basil!
Flowers are essential because they make time spent in the garden more beautiful and because they attract pollinators. A sunflower patch is a great project to work on with small children. Any child will be fascinated by the growth of a tiny seed into a flower that towers over her or his head! Keep photographs of your child with their sunflower plants at different stages of growth to look back on the progress you made together. Zinnias are another fun, low-maintenance flower. They come in all sorts of colors and sizes and really brighten up a garden space. Whatever you decide to grow, plant a lot so you can have fresh-cut flowers all summer long. Homemade bouquets also make thoughtful gifts!
Want to visit Tricycle Gardens’ Urban Farm to learn more and explore the garden with your little ones? Contact email@example.com to schedule a Way to Grow tour- our educational farm tour that connects children of all ages to the source of their food!
Emily Reynolds is an intern at Tricycle Gardens working on RVA’s Urban Farm in Manchester. She is a gardener, barista, and environmentalist and will happily share her enthusiasm for a well-grown meal with anyone who eats.