Start a mini-garden with your tyke today and sow the seeds of patience and delayed gratification in them!

It’s common these days to find families sitting at the same table but are staring at their gadgets instead of talking to each other. You even see toddlers watching back-to-back episodes of their favourite cartoons on their own tablets while eating.

One great way to reduce the family’s reliance on electronic gadgets for amusement is to do family projects together. A good bonding activity is to start a mini-garden at home. In fact, getting junior to garden can benefit their development in several ways. They’ll:

* Boost their sensory development Your tyke will handle different textures like rough bits of soil and the smooth surfaces of flower petals. They’ll also discover the differences in plant colours and sizes.

Gardening allows your child to realise how important it is to respect and care for Mother Nature.

* Learn how to care for the environment Gardening allows your child to appreciate the vital role the environment plays in supporting healthy plant growth and realise the importance of respecting and caring for Mother Nature. You can also teach your kids about the harmful effects of pollution and pesticides.

* Recognise the value of delayed gratification Explain to your offspring that putting in effort to care for the plant daily will eventually allow them to literally taste the fruits of their labour.

Edible Garden City urban farmer Natalia Tan notes that there are many ways to involve your child in this enriching bonding activity.

“From the very beginning, parents can consult their kids on what they'd like to grow in the garden, go shopping for plants with them, get them involved in planting and daily maintenance, and of course, the harvest [if you are growing edible plants and fruits] itself!”

Follow these simple tips to start your own garden at home…

1. Figure out what kind of plants you want to grow To narrow down the selection of plants to grow, start by considering whether you are growing plants for food or fun, Tan advises,. “Some plants flourish in our climate but others may not do so well.” For instance, you shouldn’t grow temperate fruits like grapes, strawberries, apples and oranges in our tropical climate.

If you prefer to start with something simple, Tan suggests planting Indian Borage. “[It] is a hardy plant that has an interesting texture, colour and scent, and can be used to make tea.” For places with a lot of sunlight, mint and basil may be a good choice, too.

2. Turn store-bought veggies into plants You can grow most of the seed-producing vegetables ― apart from temperate fruits and plants ― sold at the local wet-markets. Tan says, “There is no guarantee that seeds from store-bought fruits and vegetables will germinate, but some likely candidates are chili padi and red or green beans.”

3. Reserve a good spot Tan notes that you don’t need a whole lot of space to start a garden. “You can start a garden with just a few pots in the kitchen, a balcony space, or even the common corridor — just as long as your neighbours are all right with it.” The plants will surely flourish as long as you cover the basics — like getting enough sunlight, soil and water — are covered. If you may also want to consider growing your plants vertically. Tan advises, “Don't be afraid to experiment a little with your plants and to observe them carefully to see how they respond!”

4. Pick the right soil Now that you’ve narrowed down the list of possible plants to grow, it’s time to get suitable soil for your plants. Tan advises that you approach any local nursery if you need any assistance.

“You can start a garden with just a few pots in the kitchen, a balcony space, or even the common corridor — just as long as your neighbours are all right with it.”

5. You don’t need expensive gardening equipment Using good tools will give you an easier time when completing tasks like repotting, pruning and harvesting but there’s no need to splurge, Tan states. “[Again,] the most important thing is to give each plant what it needs in terms of water, light conditions, soil conditions, and fertiliser where appropriate, and to deal with pests as they come.”

6. Water your plants daily, prune or fertilise them weekly Think again if you’re under the impression that caring for your plants will take up a lot of your time. Tan says that some types of plant require almost zero maintenance, apart from watering at least once a day. “Watering should be done daily, but other tasks like pruning and fertilising can be done weekly or fortnightly.”

Finally, if you have any questions about how to start, Tan says Edible Garden City does site visitations and consultations, so contact them if you require assistance.

Photos: iStock

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