Recently the NSW Federation of Parents and Citizens Association called for a ban on traditional unhealthy school fundraisers. With an obesity epidemic gripping our schools it seems ludicrous that children are encouraged to sell chocolates and sweet treats for school fundraisers.

I was so happy to learn that Australia’s largest garden brand, Yates, have come up with a solution and put together an alternative fundraising pack featuring seeds for kids. This week I am have an interview with gardening expert and mother Angie Thomas about the seed packs, gardening for kids and for your kitchen.

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The Yates Raise a Patch initiative is a great way for kids to first become introduced to growing their own veggies. Why is it important that kids not only eat fresh fruit and veggies but have an understanding of where food comes from?

Education is the key to success when it comes to healthy eating. As kids get older, they will start to make more of their own food choices so they need to be able to make informed decisions about what they’re putting in their bodies. With this in mind, it’s important for them to know where the food comes from and what the health benefits of eating fresh fruit and veggies are.

What are some of the best varieties of veggies to grow with young kids?

Some of my favourite veggies to grow with my two young boys are carrots, baby spinach, Tiny Tim tomatoes, capsicums, and Lebanese cucumbers, all of which are sold as packet seeds in the Yates Raise a Patch carry boxes.

Can you share any ideas for encouraging kids to become interested in gardening?

A great way to do this is to designate a section of your veggie patch for your kids to have as their own. Let them choose which veggies they would like to grow and assign them the responsibility of watering and picking their own veggies. Allowing them to take ownership of this process from start to finish will help keep them interested.

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Can you provide any advice for people who only have a very small space for growing veg or perhaps only pots on a balcony?

There are lots of different types of veggies that are suitable for growing in a pot, planter or hanging basket and won’t take up too much space. Some of the packet seeds included in the Yates Raise a Patch carry boxes are perfect for growing in these conditions, especially the Tiny Tim tomatoes and lettuce salad mix.

What are your top tips for setting up your first kitchen garden?

Start small. Select a few varieties of fruit and vegetables that you eat regularly and start by growing them first. As you get more confident, add some more varieties to the mix until you have a fully functioning kitchen garden.

At the YATES RAISE A PATCH launch

What are some great varieties to plant right now, in Spring?

Lebanese cucumbers, lettuce salad mix, curled parsley, Alpine strawberries, tomatoes, capsicums, beans and carrots are great for growing in Spring.

What are the next big trends in growing your own veggies, herbs and fruits?

The vertical garden trend is definitely here to stay and is another great way to grow your veggies in a small space. Also called living walls or green walls, vertical gardens look great and save space which explains why they have remained a top gardening trend in recent years.

How would you describe your approach to food?

I enjoy wholesome, nutritious food that the whole family can enjoy. With two young boys to chase after, I usually opt for quick, easy, healthy meals. Eating too much unhealthy and processed food can make me feel lethargic. I have so much more energy when I’m eating proper balanced meals.

What role does fresh produce play in the health and wellness of your family?

Fresh produce plays a huge role in the health and wellness of my family. Fruit salad is my go-to snack when the boys are feeling peckish and we eat vegetables with every meal.

What are your best tips for including more fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet?

Experiment with different fruit and vegetables in the kitchen so that you know what works for you. If you don’t like a certain fruit or vegetable, replace it with another. Eating fresh fruit and vegetables should be enjoyable rather than a chore, so eat more of the ones you love.

Nasturtiums

What are the best experiences you’ve had with growing some of your own food?

Some of the greatest moments have involved gardening with kids. Seeing the delight on my boys’ faces eating fresh corn picked straight off the plant or watching excited kids eating freshly picked beans for the first time from their school veggie patch. They couldn’t wait to go home and start growing their own. That makes me such a happy gardener!