How Does Your Garden Grow?

It’s official – spring has sprung! Bees buzzing, flowers blooming, and lots of pollen in the air (achoo!). Gardening is a great way to learn and spend time with the family all while getting your hands dirty. There is so much to learn as you grow plants for both their beauty and for their produce. The Cosio family has been gardening for many years and their garden bounty is nothing short of amazing! They took time last month to share a little about their gardening journey in hopes to inspire more homeschooling families to get gardening.

How did your family get involved in gardening?
My husband grew up in Mexico on a farm and was used to the country life, milking cows, making cheese, etc. It was only natural for him to begin growing food in our backyard. He initially planted lots of pretty flowers and trees, but later starting thinking that instead of watering plants and flowers that simply look pretty, he would use the water to grow something that we could eat.

In what ways do your kids participate?
The children help their dad right from the beginning with planting the seeds, tilling the soil, watering, and their favorite part which is harvesting the fruit and vegetables. They have become very knowledgeable about gardening and take pride in showing friends and family what is growing in the garden. Many afternoons are spent in the garden.

How do you incorporate gardening into homeschooling? We use many aspects of gardening in our homeschooling curriculum. We’ve created lap books on plants, plant cells, parts of the seed, bees, and most recently the kids found tomato hornworms and cabbage worms in the garden. We researched their life cycle and the kids kept them in their rooms until one day we had moths flying all over their bedrooms. The kids reported their findings scientifically, had a lot of fun, and learned a lot in their experiment to see if the worms would actually turn into a moth.

What types of fruits/vegetables do you grow?
Depending on the season we grow broccoli, cauliflower, green and purple cabbage, beets, onions, garlic, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, different types of lettuce, kale, sugar snap peas, spinach, tomatoes, green and red bell peppers, different types of chili, eggplant, peas, and different types of beans.
We have lots of fruit trees, peach, plum, nectarine, different types of apples, mango, apricot, avocado, orange, fig, and most recently a banana tree that is growing some bananas!
We also have different types of herbs/spices thyme, rosemary, oregano, mint, and cilantro. In the winter, we get about 60 to 70 pounds of broccoli which we normally blanch and freeze to use throughout the year. We also grow about 150 pounds of tomatoes in the summer which we make into a marinara sauce and freeze to use throughout the year for spaghetti and pizza sauce. In the winter, we grow tons of potatoes that also last many months. We now try to grow more types of veggies and legumes that last a longer amount of time or that can be preserved so that it will last until the following season.

What are the some benefits you have experienced from growing your own food?
Since starting our garden five years ago, the kids eat so much more fruit and vegetables than before. It took almost a year for them to stop complaining when I would serve it to them. Now they willingly eat their veggies and enjoy them. They know how much hard work is put into growing the vegetables, and they don’t want them to go to waste. The whole family eats so many more vegetables since we established a rule that we have to eat a vegetable with every meal. Doing this also encouraged us to finally cut out all processed foods in our diet. It is awesome knowing that we are feeding our family organic vegetables and fruits.

We also have enjoyed sharing our bounty of vegetables with family, neighbors, and our EF. My husband’s motto is the more you give, the more God will give us. You cannot compare the taste of home grown veggies to store bought ones…it simply does not compare! The produce also seems to last much longer than the ones you buy in the market. In the past 3 years my husband has developed a rain water collection system where we are able to store up to 1,500 gallons of water. The vegetables and fruits grow so much better with the rain water and they seem to taste even better, too. We have an irrigation system where the water that is collected is pumped to the garden. The vegetables and fruit trees are watered using a drip system so no water is wasted.

What advice do you have for families interested in starting a vegetable garden?
When people look at our garden, it can seem overwhelming to think of growing so much, but even having a small area dedicated to growing veggies helps kids learn what it entails to maintain a garden. It is nice to have the kids participate so they know that food doesn’t just come from a market but from the soil! We don’t have a humongous property but it still amazes me how much is grown in the space we have. It really is quite incredible! We now have a front yard garden growing which gets lots of attention in our neighborhood. When their dad is outside in the garden, many people come and comment on how beautiful the garden is, and he always sends people away with vegetables. I’m really proud of all our family’s hard work and dedication that we put into growing our own food, and we hope we can encourage more people to go outside, get dirty, and grow your own food!!

Inspired yet?
If you’re itching to get started on your own gardening adventures, check out iLEAD’s seed-selling vendor Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds!



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