Did someone say pizza? Wouldn’t it be truly wonderful if pizzas grew on trees? Imagine if you could simply pluck a colourful pizza from a tree growing in your own backyard? I’d buy that tree and take very good care of it! Sadly, pizzas do not grow on trees but the ingredients we enjoy on our pizza most certainly do! So why not plant a pizza garden? A garden full of things your child loves to put on their pizza. Growing a pizza garden can be both fun and rewarding. A pizza garden provides the opportunity for research, reading, writing and gardening experiences for children and family members! They might not even realize how much reading they are actually doing!
A pizza garden is a super fun way to begin reading pizza cookbooks, researching and reading which types of plants and soil to purchase, sunlight requirements, depth to plant, and how to harvest. Depending on your child’s age, they could even plan, measure and build a garden box. For this activity they would need to make a list of the supplies and find creative ways to make their own garden labels. All of these activities require reading: directions, various planting, growing and harvesting instructions and recipes for their garden. They could also write out the directions for someone to care for the garden when you are away for the weekend, keep a log or journal of which plants grow faster or taller, make a watering schedule, write a list of pizza ingredients they will need in addition to those they are growing. Do your best to let them do the work of researching and organizing on their own. This is a wonderful and safe opportunity for them to make mistakes and learn responsibility, even if things get delayed or you have to go to the store a few times for items they forgot. They could even draw a picture of their pizza and label it (crust, edge, tomato sauce etc), chart the plant growth (counting leaves and measuring height), create a video or written journal, write out invitations to their pizza party, and do a survey of people’s favourite toppings on a pizza. Please refer to our downloads at the end of the article. There are enough reading and writing notes through researching, purchasing, planting and tending a garden to keep your child actively engaged with reading and writing throughout the summer months! It’s also a great way to take family pizza night up a notch!
Now let’s get going to discover how to grow some pizza toppings and make our own pizzas! A pizza garden is a wonderful way to engage kids outside. First consider what your kids love to eat on their pizza. Pack up the kids and head to the garden centre and let them choose what they want to grow. When the first crop is ready the kids can harvest what they need from the pizza garden to make their own pizzas.
Here is a delicious list of suggested plants to grow that can help create a delectable pizza.
You can grow juicy plum tomatoes, plump peppers and fresh herbs. All of these can help make up a tasty topping for this favourite family treat. Most kids love pizza, and they’ll enjoy the rewards of growing and picking their own ingredients to help make their own pizza. There are many different kinds of herbs and vegetables that can be easily grown inside or outside. What you choose to grow will depend on your kid’s choice of pizza toppings.
Every yummy pizza starts with a tasty base sauce. There are two kinds sauces that commonly provide the base for homemade pizzas, one being pesto and the other tomato sauce. Plum tomatoes, which are really fruit, are one of the simplest to grow successfully in a pizza garden. All tomatoes really need are plenty of sun and a well-drained soil. With these conditions met you can harvest tomatoes all summer long. Tomatoes will happily grow in a container or on a porch. Just be certain to tie them to a support or a tomato cage, so that they don’t break on a windy day. For a pesto base you will need to grow a lot of basil. Pesto is a combination of basil, nuts, garlic, parmesan cheese and olive oil. Basil prefers growing in a sunny spot and the more you cut it back the more it will grow. While you can’t grow olive oil or parmesan cheese, you can likely grow garlic. In fact, you can start garlic from the bulb that you get from the grocery store. Drop only a clove (not the entire bulb)
into the soil and you will have a bulb of garlic in no time. Don’t forget you can also eat the green stem of the garlic plant as they are packed with great flavour.
So, what else can you grow in a pizza garden? Bell Peppers! Plant green, red, yellow or orange peppers alongside your tomato plants; they grow very well together. Bell peppers really like to soak up the heat and the sun. They will benefit from growing inside a cage structure. Not much beats a fresh pepper from the garden! For those who like their pizza spicy, hot peppers including jalapeno and chilli peppers are super simple to grow. In fact, if you grow your hot peppers in a container you can bring them inside and place them in a sunny window to continue growing all winter long.
Herbs can really make a pizza with pizz-az! A dash of oregano, thyme and basil will add flavour to any pizza. Remember, herbs like growing together and can even grow in the same container. Give your herbs a generous haircut often and they will grow thicker the more you cut them back. Another good addition to top off a homemade pizza is some arugula. The bitterness of arugula, slightly wilted from baking, makes a delicious and nutritious pizza topping. Lettuce's, such as arugula, like to grow in partial shade. Not only is it perfect for a container, arugula makes a healthy addition to your pizza garden.
If you like mushrooms on your pizza they can be very interesting to grow. Skip the sunny spots indoors or outdoors and grow your mushrooms in a cool, dark spot inside your house. What do you think about having mushrooms growing in your closet? Try some new additions to your family pizza like broccoli or zucchini. Broccoli and zucchini turn soft and sweet when baked on a pizza. They are easy to grow in a garden, however they do take more time to grow. While tomatoes grow quickly and can be picked in the summer, broccoli and zucchini prefer cooler days and are great vegetables for harvesting in the fall.
Now let’s dream of what we would like to grow for our favourite pizza garden! Pineapples? Do you like to put pineapple on your pizza? It’s a Canadian thing, I understand. Is there another special ingredient that you love putting on your pizza that you would like to grow? Do a little research and check your climate to see if it’s possible. If not, find out where they do grow and how long they usually take. This develops a greater appreciation for our food.
There is a wide selection of pizza-making books online, at the library, and even for purchase that will be of interest as your child and family plan a pizza garden summer project. The entire process of finding the right book to get started, such as how to prepare the soil, will get them reading and making lists of items they need. Allowing them to discover, on their own, items they have missed will help them take responsibility and teach them to be more thorough in their planning and preparation stages in future projects. These are safe mistakes they can learn from and with the amount of work invested in researching, planting, harvesting and in the celebration of eating will be that much more rewarding!
What a great summer initiative for your child(ren) to add some pizza-zz to their summer reading while enjoying the beautiful outdoors this summer!
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