Both novice gardeners and proud green thumbs alike have turned to gardening as a meaningful, family-friendly activity to connect with nature during quarantine. Starting a simple vegetable garden is a great way for kids to help grow their own food and learn about our food systems here in Hawai‘i. For some great ‘ohana gardening tips, we turned to Heather Mohr, the Executive Director at the family-run, organic farm Keiki and Plow. Aunty Heather helped to curate tips to get the keiki started planting at home, easy veggie recipes, and some of her favorite books for keiki and adults centered around the theme: Grow!
SOME TIPS FOR HELPING KEIKI FARMERS GET STARTED:
When you're first starting a garden with keiki you want to think about a few essential elements: 1) timing 2) taste and 3) beauty.
Starting with crops that are quick to grow, tasty and in a variety of colors will keep your child engaged and excited about their time in the garden and enjoying the fruits of their labor.
Fast growing crops would be things like radishes, salad greens, and herbs. These are staples that you can enjoy daily from the garden and are relatively easy for beginner gardeners. Adding pops of color through flowers or root veggies like rainbow carrots, or beets or even greens like swiss chard and kale keep your garden aesthetically pleasing but will also bring in pollinators allowing for a whole new dimension of discovery. Don't forget about local crops like kalo, banana, lillikoi or uuala (sweet potato). These staple crops will keep your garden providing year round and provide an invitation to discover indigenous methods of farming and sustainability.
Gardening should be fun! Don't be afraid to grow some "just for fun" things in your space like mammoth sunflowers that can grow up to 10' tall or a special variety of watermelon...you might never actually taste the fruit but watching the vine grow in FEET overnight is certainly fun and engaging for the keiki and us young at heart. Remember that gardening is more than just the result of food, it's an exercise in biology, sustainability, health, wellness and connection!
Continue to enrich your time in the garden by bringing out different materials for exploring each day: watercolors for observation art, magnifying glasses for bug hunts, spray bottles to keep toddler hands occupied, dinosaurs and more can all keep your time in the garden fun for all. You can easily incorporate a science experiment and measure the growth of your crops, the temperature of the compost, the amount of rainfall you've had overnight and so much more. There are endless learning opportunities for kids across the ages but remember to slow down and simply enjoy the time to connect with your keiki in nature.
A FAVORITE, SIMPLE RECIPE FOR SEASONAL VEGGIES:
Our favorite garden recipe is any combination of fruit and green smoothies! We like to use banana and oat milk as our staples and add in any other fruits or greens like kale, swiss chard and even sometimes herbs like cilantro or roots like ginger and turmeric. We don't use any measuring just simply toss it all in and keep adding liquids until you get the consistency you like. *BONUS* When we have fresh kalo I like to make poi and freeze it into ice cube trays. Whenever we make a smoothie I'll pop a few kalo cubes in for added nutrition and belly filling goodness!
Mahalo to Aunty Heather for making the time to share her knowledge with us! Heather Mohr is the Executive Director of Keiki and Plow, a family-run, organic farm in Hawaii Kai. You can find out more about opportunities to play and participate at Keiki and Plow at their website or follow them on Instagram at @keikiandplow for more information.