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Starting a Family Home Garden

Seven years ago, I started tinkering with a few tomato plants in the summer. Today, gardening has evolved into a regular family activity, and it can be one for your family too!

Kids love dirt. Dirt loves kids. What better way to channel the energy of this mutual attraction within the structure of a family bonding activity like sowing seeds? Kids can help in nearly every step of the planting process, from selecting the seed/plants, planting the seeds, crafting the garden markers, and of course, tending to the needs of the vegetable bed regularly.


Picking the Foods to Plant!

My family decided to plant a seasonal plant, fennel, and carrots (which can be grown year-round). As a family, we had fun picking and experimenting with carrot varieties of different shapes and colors!


Ben 2


Planting the Starters

We chose to use seed starter trays for our garden and the girls loved getting their little hands covered in the soil as they tucked the teeny seeds into their miniature beds, waiting for them to wake from their slumber.

We did a little research on how to care for each type of seed and found that for our area, fennel is best grown inside the house vs. outside for the first 3 weeks or so. For the carrots, they actually do better when sown outside directly into the soil. Every plant is different!


Ben 3

Harvesting Our Produce!

We worked together as a family to nurture the vegetables in the ground for about 3 months. The kids loved watching the veggies undergo their metamorphosis… then the time came to enjoy the fruits of our labor! We enjoyed plucking the vegetables out of their beds together as a family. The girls held the produce with such a sense of pride!


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Picky Eater Approved Veggies!

Gardening has had many benefits for our family: relationship building, a sense of responsibility, science lessons, and working together as a family towards a common goal. One of the biggest benefits was helping our picky eaters try new things!

Studies show a child’s involvement in gardening improves their attitudes and boosts the number of new vegetables and fruit children request and try.1 These are all benefits we’ve experienced as we offer and serve these goodies from the garden. Including children in the cooking preparation process can also help inspire your children to eat more vegetables.2 From dirt-to-plate, the whole process definitely makes those veggies less daunting and more tummy friendly! Try our Roasted Carrot & Fennel recipe that we made from the produce in our backyard! #PickyEaterApproved


Start small, and as you take the time to cultivate family memories in the garden, in turn, your family will reap the rewards together at the dinner table.





1 Heim, S., Stang, J. & Ireland, M. “A garden pilot project enhances fruit and vegetable consumption among children.”  Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2009 Jul; 109(7): 1220-6.


2 Van der Horst, K., Ferrage, A., & Rytz, A. “Involving children in meal preparation. Effects on food intake.” Appetite, 2014 Aug; 79(1): 18-24.


Ben Bratcher is a Registered Dietitian at Kaiser Permanente in California. He also works for Montebello Unified School District (MUSD) developing lesson plans that are incorporated into the curriculum for grades Pre K-12. As a father to four girls, Ben teaches his own children about food and how to make healthful choices, which includes attending to a fruit and vegetable garden that boasts 29 different varieties of heirloom tomatoes.

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