Gardening Tips from the Healthy Schools Campaign

How to Grow a Little Green Thumb

kids gardening!

You’ve said it before, but now you (really, really) mean it: This is the year you start a family garden.

Here to plant a few seeds is Healthy Schools Campaign, the Chicago-based nonprofit that advocates nationally for healthy educational environments.

Work with what you’ve got.
Even if you have only a back deck, you can flourish with large pots or window boxes (herbs and tomatoes do especially well in them). Use the largest vessels possible, position them to capture plenty of sunlight, and make sure they drain well so the roots don’t get waterlogged.

Start with the easy stuff.
Cucumbers are great for beginners; they’re easy to grow, hardy, and yield a ton. Also consider herbs such as basil, oregano, rosemary, and sage, which can be used in common recipes (your kid will love seeing them go straight from garden to kitchen). Sweet and sized for little hands, cherry tomatoes are the mother of all garden-grown fruit.

Assign jobs — especially if they’re dirty.
To pique a child’s interest, put him in charge of simple but ongoing tasks, such as watering the crop, checking for new blooms, and fetching ripened items. Embrace the mess that comes along with it; kids have a natural urge to dig with their hands, which is a great way to connect with the Earth and see where food comes from.

Reap your harvest.
Celebrate your newly minted gardener by packing a lunch that uses the fruits of his labor. One idea: Shred veggies, mix them with hummus, and put them on a sandwich.

Now it’s ready, set, grow.

For healthy eating tips, news, and events, go to healthyschoolscampaign.org.

gardening gear!Ready to get dirty? We found gardening gear you’ll really dig.

this week in chicago!

Great Cloth Diaper Change
Band together to set a Guinness World Record for most cloth nappies changed at the same time.
Why: Gift bags and snacks are part of the bum rush.
When: Sat., 11 a.m.
Where: Bellybum Boutique, 4347 N. Lincoln Ave., at Pensacola Ave. (773-868-0944); Comfy Bunny, 231 S. Washington St., at Chicago Ave., Naperville (630-428-7900). Admission is free but call first to R.S.V.P. (space is limited).

Nature’s Architects
Interactive exhibit teaches how animals build structures underwater, underground, and in trees.
Why: Your little critters will love crawling through tunnels like prairie dogs.
When: Thru Sept. 12.
Where: The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Cannon Dr., at Fullerton Pkwy. (773-755-5100). Museum admission, adults, $9; children 3-12, $6; children under 3, free.

Marmalade Photography’s Mommy and Me Sessions
The Wilmington photo studio takes natural, artful snaps of you and your littles as part of a limited-time package deal ($195 for a 30-minute sitting and an eleven-by-fourteen print).
Why: It’s worth the trip, especially if you linger downtown to antique-shop or eat at Launching Pad Drive-In.
When: Sat. & Apr. 30.
Where: 118 Water St., Wilmington. To make an appt., call 815-603-8450.

Photo: Peter Zander / Getty Images

Comfy Bunny
231 S Washington St
@ Chicago Ave
Naperville, IL 60540
Marmalade Photography
118 S Water St
Wilmington, IL 60481
4347 N Lincoln Ave
@ W Montrose Ave
Chicago, IL 60618
2430 N Cannon Dr
@ Fullerton Pkwy
Chicago, IL 60614