Growing Together
Cultivate Deeper Connections and Discover the Simple Joys of Family Gardening

In the busyness of life, finding tranquil moments with loved ones can be challenging. However, there’s something magical that happens when you join together to cultivate nature with family. Whether sowing seeds, tending to plants and produce or growing your own herbs, you’ll find abundant opportunities for shared and meaningful experiences. 

Boy planting seeds

Photos courtesy of Emily McLaughlin.

Discover your green thumb

Family gardening is more than just growing plants. It’s about nurturing relationships and forging a stronger bond with nature. “Gardening is all about finding ways to add enjoyment to your life through the benefits of plants,” says Jacquie Robertson, store manager of Sargent’s Landscape Nursery North. She provides useful tips for families to begin:
• Seed starting: Beans are a great option for seed starting that can be rewarding for all ages, especially when the seeds sprout.
• Companion planting: Incorporate corn, squash and beans in the same plot using the “three sisters” planting method. By planting the corn first, the beans have something to climb on, and the squash provides groundcover. You can witness “teamwork” in action.
• Idea and plant sharing: Discuss horticulture topics with others to share and learn new ideas. In addition to flowers, give cuttings of houseplants to family and friends, along with instructions for lighting, watering and nutrition requirements.
• Encouragement: Provide children with tools to care for their own small plot and understand gardening responsibilities. Weeding is an important task for any gardener.

“It can be fun to find reward through trial and error,” says Robertson. “Involve the children at every step to reveal the benefits of caring for plants.” 

Boy interacting with ducklings

Photos courtesy of Emily McLaughlin.

Instilling a wonder of nature

“We started planting seeds with our kids when they were very young,” says Emily McLaughlin, nature-loving owner of Tomte Grove. She and her husband, James, purchased the family farm a few years ago and expanded to cultivate fruits, vegetables and herbs, as well as raise chickens, ducks and quail for eggs. 

“We appreciate knowing where our food comes from,” emphasizes McLaughlin. The couple engages their two children in nature to impart an understanding of different plants, animals and ecosystems as well as curiosity and patience. Together they steward resources through sustainable practices. “Beyond composting and recycling, we use as few single-use items as possible. Leftovers from the kitchen and plants around the farm are fed to our animals.” Furthermore, they are preserving their property by restoring trees and natural areas where migratory birds and wildlife make their home. 

Describing the importance of these actions to their kids fosters a sense of responsibility, along with activities like planting seeds and trees in the spring, hosting mason bees and refraining from pesticide use. For McLaughlin, this lifestyle comes naturally. “My parents were ahead of their time with recycling and developed my love of the outdoors and nature,” she explains. “We started traveling to national parks and volunteering with environmental organizations when I was very young. It’s always just been a part of who I am, and we try to encourage this same love of the world in our kids.”

girl with fresh vegetables and herbs

Photos courtesy of Emily McLaughlin.

Exploring herbs

Amber Meyers, codirector of the Herbal Academy, International School of Herbal Arts and Sciences, provides herbalism education. “Showing a child how to grow, harvest and use common herbs like dandelion, violet and plantain will instill a fascination with the herbs all around them. It’s especially fun if you use herbs to make infusions, poultices, skin care products and even popsicles,” she says. 

“It’s important to know what zone you’re located in and when your last frost date is. Rochester is in Zone 4B,” says Meyers. “This information will help you know what plants thrive best in your area and when to grow your plants outside.” Other considerations are the soil, sunlight and space. Container or vertical gardening works well for small spaces, and in-ground or raised beds are ideal for larger areas.

“It’s a good idea to pick a purpose for your garden, which helps you know which herbs to start with,” she continues. For example:
• If you want a kid-friendly garden, consider chamomile or catnip.
• Seeking stress relief? Try lemon balm or tulsi.
• For culinary use, basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme are excellent choices.

Involve family in a shared garden or assign specific herbs to each participant. Herbs offer benefits that extend to cooking, self-care, crafting and gift-giving. For example, fresh or dried culinary herbs enhance meals, while aromatic herbs create delightful tea blends. Botanicals, whether displayed as fresh flowers or used for potpourri, add natural fragrance to your living area.

Harvest the benefits

By harvesting healthy plants, colorful blooms or versatile herbs alongside family members, you not only get closer to nature but also develop valuable life skills and appreciation for the land. So gather your family members and start growing together—the rewards will be plentiful for generations to come. ::

About Author

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Trish is a Rochester-area freelance writer who is inspired by and honored to share the stories of courageous, strong and amazing women in and around the Rochester community.

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