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Little hands can help create family victory gardens

Spring is a time of renewal and rebirth, and that is none more apparent than in the blooming of plants all around us. But aside from daffodils and lilies, the start of a family garden is a great way to welcome spring.

Many area families are involving their children when creating victory gardens.

Victory gardens were wildly popular during World War II, when families needed to raise their own food to put on the dinner table. And they’ve made quite the resurgence in recent years with the price of produce on the rise and concern over chemicals used in commercially grown food.

Brian Bates and his wife, Angela, make a garden every year, and since having children have found ways to have them help. Bates said it’s important to teach their children where food comes from and that it does not automatically appear at the grocery store.

Bates’s son Aiden, 10, and daughter, Ava, 6, love to plant seeds and check on the garden each spring and into the summer.

“They love to run over to the yard after school and see what’s coming up,” he said.

Sue Watts is the education program coordinator for the South Carolina Botanical Garden in Clemson. She teaches children’s classes about plants and gardening so children can learn more about where their food comes from. She even said growing food can bolster a child’s self-esteem and confidence.

“When children grow their own fruits and vegetables, they are more likely to eat them, and adding more plants to a diet is excellent for health,” she said.

If you want to start your own home garden, Watts says to start small. She warned a first time gardener can be overwhelmed with too much once seeds sprout and they’re suddenly faced with tending to a garden. A smaller garden would be about 10 feet by 10 feet, and include between three and five of a family’s favorites. Tomatoes, snow peas, and lettuces are good starters, she said.

A family accustomed to gardening can always expand. Watts said 100 feet of garden per person can provide a summer’s worth of produce. A garden of size, however, will require more time and care in terms of weeding, watering and harvesting.

“It really depends on how much time and energy you’re willing to devote to your garden,” she said.

Bates said their garden each year is about 10 feet by 20 feet — the most they feel like they can put in their backyard with a good amount of sunlight. He said it’s enough for them to work and enjoy, but small enough that the kids can handle most of the watering and weeding duties.

Children, even young ones, can help with planting seeds. They love to poke their fingers in the ground and make holes for the seeds, Watts said. Watering the plants is also a great job for little hands, just be sure to get a child-sized watering can for their little hands. Children can also pull weeds and harvest fruits and veggies.

Watts reminds parents to give up on perfection when it comes to having children help in the garden, but that the benefits far outweigh any obstacles a family might face when it comes to gardening with their children.

“Being outside in fresh air has numerous health benefits and playing in the dirt is good for the soul and the immune system,” Watts concluded.