Gardening with you kids is a great way to build family memories and traditions that can persist through many generations. It’s a fantastic way to teach children responsibility and give them a love of nature; all while promoting a diet that supports oral health as part of an overall healthy diet. We like to think of these oral health-focused gardens as “Smile Gardens” because they deliver family smiles inside and out!
April is National Garden Month and one of the themes of the National Gardening Association is “When kids garden, kids grow.” So, we thought we’d help you out by sharing some of our favorite plants for supporting great oral health and tips for exercising your green thumb this spring.
What Smile Gardens are Made Of
Overall, any fresh fruit or vegetable is going to be better for your teeth than sugar-based treats, meats or even dried fruits. Your teeth and gums are a part of your body, and as every other part, need good nutrition to function properly. However, different body parts do benefit from different nutrients. Here are some of the more crucial for healthy teeth and gums:
- Fibrous fruits and vegetables, like celery, that help clean your teeth as you eat them.
- Dark leafy greens, like kale, spinach, swiss chard and mustard or turnip greens that contain lots of calcium to promote strong teeth, and magnesium which helps restore tooth enamel. So consider planting a larger variety of these.
- Vegetables with Vitamin A, like butternut squash, carrots and sweet potatoes that help heal sores in your mouth.
When Should You Plant
The good old-fashioned Farmer’s Almanac is still an excellent resource for helping you plan your best garden. According to their interactive planting calendar for Franklin, TN, now is the perfect time to start planting outside. It covers thirty of the most popular vegetables herbs and fruits which should be more than enough to get your family started.
Where Your Garden Should Grow
Obviously, you want to prepare your garden in a sunny area around your home; but, gardens don’t have to take up a lot of space. A four by four foot garden can yield enough veggies for a family of four.
Having great soil isn’t an issue either. Which is good news for us Tennesseans who live in such a limestone rich area. Raised bed gardens allow you to control your soil quality and often make tending to your garden easier.
Resources to Help Your Garden Grow
- The UT Institute of Agriculture, UT Extension offers an entire how to for The Tennessee Vegetable Garden.
- SeedMoney garden planner is an online subscription based service with a 7-day free “plan your garden” trial. A $29 annual subscription allows you to save your garden plans up to five online and sends personalized emails explaining when and how to plant, tend and manage your garden.
- Planting a Vegetable Garden for Beginners from the Farmer’s Almanac provides sage advice for novices.
- For those with a really small space or in an urban setting, you can try your hand at creating container gardens. Gardener’s Supply Company and Better Home & Gardens offer great advice to get you started.