By Jessica Domel

When I was little, I thought everyone had a garden. Where else would squash, potatoes and tomatoes come from? I realized some produce came from the grocery store, of course, but I just assumed everyone could go outside, pick a tomato and eat it right there.

It wasn’t until I was a bit older that I realized that experience was quite a luxury for me. I learned so much in my grandparents’ garden and my own. I planted flowers, vegetables, fruits (or tried to) and anything I thought could grow.

Not everything worked out the way I wanted it to, but it was an experience that helped shape me for a lifetime. That’s one reason why I love seeing so many public and private schools creating their own garden projects. There are others, of course.

In fact, below are my five reasons why I think every kid should have a garden:

1) It teaches patience. The first time I carefully buried a seed, I thought I could pour a little water on it and a vegetable would pop right out. Boy, was I wrong! But it taught me something about life. You have to be patient and nurture what you want.

2) It teaches responsibility. When my dad helped me plant my first garden, he told me I had to remember to water it every day and check on it. If I didn’t, the plants could die. And I didn’t want that.

3) It’s peaceful. There’s something about sitting in a garden, checking on plants and delicately caring for them that is calming to most people. It can help reduce stress after a long day. Bonus: It keeps you off the computer or phone for just a few peaceful moments. It’s worth every cent.

4) It’s a learning experience. Other than learning patience and responsibility, growing things involves learning about the growth cycle, soil and the world around us without it feeling like school. I’ve been to community gardens where kids get so excited about seeing bugs, different colored leaves and blossoming flowers. They want to know everything about them! I didn’t always know the answers to their questions, but it was fun to look up the answers together or discuss the possibilities.

5) It’s fun! It may sound weird, but some of the best days of my childhood were spent playing with my Barbies in my garden with the flowers. There’s dirt. There’s toys. There’s water and pretty plants. And bugs. It was even more fun when I got to be the first one to pick something off one of my plants and eat it. I felt like I really accomplished something!

Now may not be the best time to plant a garden in your area, but it’s a great time to talk to your kids and family about whether or not you could or should. I’ve seen small gardens on second floor apartment balconies, gardens planted in plastic bins (with drainage) and gardens planted in back yards. It seems if you’re dedicated enough, you can almost plant anywhere.

Get the kids involved. Perhaps they can pick the seeds, paint the planters, help research what will grow best or another fun task.

The possibilities are nearly endless and can result in a fun family project and the possibility of fresh produce for you to enjoy.