How many times have the words “eat your vegetables” been spoken in your house with little to no avail? Often it’s hard to get your kids to eat vegetables, let alone a salad (basically a big bowl of vegetables!), but fret not! Follow these simple steps not only to get your young ones to eat a salad, but look forward to it as well.
Growing a salad is a fun and educational way to both encourage a taste for veggies and teach your kids about the plant-growth process. It’s also a project that requires little mess and can be done inside the home if needed. Kids will love being able to make the choices of what kinds of lettuce and vegetables they want to grow, and might even learn the value of patience by checking in on their plants every day to see their growth progress, albeit slow. And the best part? You’ll get a tasty, ‘farm to table’ meal made with love.
Here’s what you’ll need: One large flower pot or preferably several smaller ones (bonus points if you use recycled plastic food cartons instead), potting soil, and seeds of your choice. If you choose to grow your salad indoors, consider purchasing a grow light to supplement any lack of sunlight, especially during the winter months.
Here’s the steps:
- Gather your materials together. Let your son or daughter pick out which seeds they want. Kale, spinach, romaine, and arugula are all great choices for the leafy base. Topping vegetables can be anything from bell peppers to tomatoes to cucumbers or squash, but be aware that some plants like tomatoes may eventually need more room if you start them in a small pot.
- Pot your plants. Pick out the container or containers you want to use and establish your salad garden location. If you don’t have enough outdoor space, you can use flower pots for the entire process, but even if you plan on transferring your salad plants to a garden plot, you will still need to start out in the smaller pots until the seeds sprout. Make the garden space fun for your kids! Set up a small fence to make it more official and ward off any unwanted animal visitors, or make a “Taylor’s Farm” or “William’s Salad” sign to mark the front.
- Start the seeds. In your small containers, whether flower pots, recycled yogurt cups (with drainage holes poked through the bottom!), or another material, fill a little over half way with moist, but not overly wet, potting soil. Sprinkle a couple of the seeds on the top in the center, and cover it with a thin layer of a little more potting soil. It can be fun for the kids to decorate popsicle sticks for each pot, labeling which plant is in which container. Look at that- Awesome Arugula and Silly Squash are well on their way!
- Watch the seeds sprout. It may take a couple days to see the start of the plant, but patience, it will come! In the meantime, keep the soil moist, typically watering your plants once a day.
- Transfer your garden outside. Once the seeds have visibly sprouted (not just a nob, but not so tall that the plant starts tipping over), fill your new garden area with fresh soil and transfer the smaller containers to their new outdoor home. You can do this by using a shovel, or your hands if you’re feeling extra earthy. Don’t forget to keep watering your salad!
- Your salad is on its way! It will typically take 4-8 weeks depending on what plants you decided to include in your salad, but it will definitely be worth the wait. Harvest your fresh veggies when they look plump and ready. As far as your salad base- trim off the leaves on the outside when they’re at a size you would want to eat. You don’t want them too small where you’d be missing out on more salad, but you don’t want them too big where your kid would be chewing with their mouth full! Leave some of the more internal leaves of your salad base plant untrimmed so it can keep its structure for the next harvest. That’s right, you’ll get a couple harvests out of your salad base, usually taking a week or two to be ready for another round.
- Pick a nice dressing and enjoy! Balsamic, Italian, Ranch- you can’t go wrong. Maybe you’ll even try making your own dressing in the true ‘homemade meal’ spirit. Either way your home grown salad, after you wash off the dirt, of course, is sure to be a tasty treat for the whole family.
Hopefully your kids will learn a lot about a plant’s life and how to garden, while also getting the benefit of a delicious treat. There’s really nothing better than veggies pulled right from the ground. For best results, consult a landscape professional for suggestions as to varieties that will do well in your garden. Maybe next time your son or daughter will actually be excited about eating their vegetables. Now about that pile of clothes sitting on her floor…