The backyard vegetable garden is what you make of it. The project can be the usual--a basic source of food crops--or a special creation that brings you closer to nature, family or the community. There is no better place to think outside of the realm of your own needs than the garden, the place where you plant a seed and ask for all the elements to come together to reward you with abundance.
Get children excited and involved in gardening by giving them the gift of direct experience. Allow them to develop their own love for getting their hands dirty. Teach them an object lesson in the value of hard work as they reap the rewards of the time and effort they invest. To entice a child to garden, look for plants that produce child-sized fruit and vegetables--like miniature melons or cherry tomatoes. Choose seeds that are large and not difficult for small fingers to handle, such as beans or peas. Plant easy-to-harvest favorites like strawberries, cucumbers and radishes and a few items that can be eaten right from the plant so that kids can sneak a berry or a fresh pea and build a strong sense association along with the memory.
Help furry and feathered friends through the seasons by considering these creatures' needs and working a few extras into the garden. For a little added effort during the growing season, you can attract an entertaining array of colorful birds, butterflies and animals to the yard and offer them much-needed sustenance in winter. A couple of rows of foods rabbits prefer--such as beans or peas--located away from your crops may help keep the critters out of your main garden area. Add a row of fruits, sorghum, sunflowers or other flowers that form a seed head--coneflower is a good example--for birds. Attract butterflies and hummingbirds by adding a wildflower or cutting flower border around your garden space.
Help a Neighbor Garden
Allow your garden to feed the hungry. Plant an extra row for a neighbor or a local food bank. Ask in advance to be paired with a specific family in need or simply take your extra items to drop off as they become available. A good variety of fresh produce is often expensive and lacking in homes where the budget is stretched thin. You could donate one type of vegetable--for example, by planting an additional row of beans--or plant your regular garden, but add an extra one or two of each type of plant you already plan to include and donate the overflow.