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June 23, 2023
By Katie Chatfield, MPH, RDN, LD, CCNP, Nutrition Manager

Serving healthy food isn’t always easy or straightforward. One way to ensure you have access to fruits and vegetables is by growing your own! Plus - having a garden saves you money and grocery trips!

For example, even just one tomato plant can be super affordable—think $3 to $5—and provide up to 10 pounds of tomatoes over the season, which otherwise can easily run you $20 or more.

From seasoned gardeners to those just starting out, gardening is a positive activity that provides many benefits.

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Garden novices
New to gardening? That’s ok! You can start as small or as large as you want. From tomato plants to potted vegetables and herbs, there are many accessible and easy-to-manage options, even in small spaces. In fact, growing vegetables in containers is a good way to start out. With them, you don't even need a yard; a sunny deck or balcony will work fine.

According to Better Homes and Gardens, a good size for a beginner's vegetable garden is 6x6 feet. Select up to five types of fruits, vegetables or herbs to grow, and plant a few of each type. You'll get plenty of fresh produce for your summer and fall meals, and keeping up with weeding and watering will be manageable (especially with several little helpers).

Avid gardeners
If you already have a garden, you know the benefits of “growing your own.” We encourage you to get the kids in your care involved! Research shows that when kids help grow fruits and vegetables, they actually eat more servings of fruits and vegetables, and are more likely to try new foods.

Plus, it’s a great way to get them outside and interested in a new kind of activity. This will become a part of the day they look forward to, knowing that they helped make something grow.

Whether you’re an in-home daycare provider or a child care center, there are many ways to work gardening into your daily routine, and specific tasks and activities to give the kids. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has recommendations for involving children in gardening activities, and ideas for how to make it a fun and nutritious experience.

Using your harvest
Once your crops are ready, there are endless ways to utilize your harvest and provide healthy options to the kids in your care. If you need some quick and easy ideas, Providers Choice has a collection of recipes to get you started!

Another gardening bonus? Serving locally grown foods is a Food Program best practice! s. Combine that with the money/time savings and the enrichment of children, we call that a win-win-win!