Does your family have a Tasting Garden yet? If not, and you have a little chunk of ground (or even a large pot and a sunny spot), you need one. Our Tasting Garden is the girls’ favorite spot in the front yard, and Essie especially loves to sample its goodies and share them with our neighbors.
Even if you’re new to gardening, all you need is a local nursery or garden store with some helpful staff to point you in the right direction. (I was never the “gardening” type until Kimmie was born, and afternoons working on the gardens around our new home were the only time I got a break from full-time childcare!) And learning along with your children is a great way to teach them about the importance of learning new things and acquiring new skills at any age!
So if you’re ready to find out what a tasting garden is, how to make your own, and why it will become your kids’ favorite spot in the yard (while teaching them about healthy and adventurous eating!), read on!
Well, that’s the idea behind what the girls call Alice’s Tasting Garden, after the story of Alice and the cake that came with instructions to eat it up.
Our tasting garden is basically a small herb garden outside our front door. Except for the hyacinths and daffodils that bloom there every spring, everything in Alice’s Tasting Garden is edible.
Our home has lots of little garden beds along the foundation. The ones in the front yard came stocked with spring-blooming bulbs – and a lot of weeds.
I had almost zero hands-on gardening experience when we moved in just before Kimmie’s birth. In the years since then, I’ve spent a lot of time playing catch-up as I’ve redone our gardens one at a time.
A few summers ago, several things came together all at once:
- The girls were growing more interested in what I was doing on all those trips to the garden store.
- I wanted a closer source of fresh herbs than the small veggie garden on the side of our house.
- The fresh herbs I used most often in food prep (like chives for deviled eggs) were things we didn’t have in the side garden.
- The weed strip next to the front door was long overdue for its makeover.
That’s when I had one of those “aha” moments: What if I made that strip into an herb garden? And what if the girls helped me plan, plant, and tend it?
Creating our Tasting Garden
1. Do your homework, and know what you’ve got
- Our Tasting Garden is roughly 2.5 feet (0.75 meters) by 6 feet (1.75 meters). One end gets a fair bit of sun, but the other end is almost always in the shade.
- We already had a planter of peppermint next to the front door, and a healthy crop of volunteer violets (viola odorata) in the area.
2. Shop to fit your needs
- The girls and I went to the garden store together in 2015, the year we first planted our tasting garden. We’d already cleared the soil of weeds, and I’d been watching the sun patterns. With this in mind, the girls helped me pick out several varieties of herbs to plant.
- Since one end of our Tasting Garden gets more sun, the sunny end became home to the taller sun-loving perennials (rosemary, lavender) as well as the plants that prefer at least some direct sun (oregano, chives).
The shady end of the garden became home to several varieties of thyme – not because I’m super-fond of thyme, but because it was a shade-tolerant option that would spread out to create ground cover.
- Although I wanted to plant as many perennials as possible, the girls and I couldn’t resist adding several annuals: parsley and cilantro, because I cook with them a lot, and stevia. Essie is especially fond of the stevia plant each year, and will eat it down to the stalk if she can.
Tips for making your own Tasting Garden
- Make sure you know something about the place you want to plant in BEFORE you go to the garden store. This was not the first time I’ve tried to plant lavender in our yard, but it’s the first time I’ve planted lavender without killing it. Things that like sun will not do well in a shady tasting-garden spot, and vice versa.
- Set aside enough time at the garden store for a leisurely browse. Be sure you get your kids involved in smelling (and, if it’s OK, tasting) the herbs you consider purchasing.
- Still don’t know what to plant? Check for a preselected sampler pack. Our garden store had ready-to-plant selections of herbs for Mexican cooking, Italian cooking, French cooking, cooking poultry, cooking fish, etc.
- Also be sure you get the kids involved in the planting process – they love digging holes, and are good at watering and mulching.
- Don’t have the space for a full-fledged herb garden? Look for a container-garden version at your local garden store. Or purchase a large pot and the herbs you want to grow, and make your own container garden.
Why we love our Tasting Garden
Essie: “The stevia. That’s my favorite part.”
(She admits that she also likes going to the garden store, and helping to plant and water, but the stevia is definitely her favorite part. Closely followed by the chives.)
As for me, I love the fact that the girls have learned to try a bunch of new flavors. And that they now enjoy these flavors in cooked dishes, too. And that when they’re helping me to cook dinner, I can send them outside to snip some fresh herbs for me from just outside the front step. And that they like teaching their friends about all the cool things available to sample in our tasting garden.
What about you? Have you tried a “tasting garden” with your kids before? Do you kids help you tend an herb garden (or other garden of edibles)? Let us know in the comments!