By: Juana Ordonez Martinez, as told to her by Valeria   |   Posted: July 13, 2023

When her Compassion center held a plant-a-garden contest, Valeria set up a sustainable vegetable garden in her backyard. Here are her tips to help you grow your own vegetables!

6 Gardening Tips From 7-Year-Old Valeria

When her Compassion center held a plant-a-garden contest, Valeria set up a sustainable vegetable garden in her backyard. Here are her tips to help you grow your own vegetables!

Written by Juana Ordonez Martinez, as told to her by Valeria
Photography by Juana Ordonez Martinez
Valeria holds up her gardening tools

Hola! My name is Valeria, and I’m 7 years old. I recently won a plant-a-garden contest at my Compassion center in Honduras!

I had never planted vegetables before, and I discovered that planting seeds is not an easy job — it requires patience and dedication to get to the harvest season.

When I prepared for the contest, I spent a couple of sunny days with my parents cleaning up the land where we planned to plant our seeds. Because of the intense heat, I put on a colorful hat, a pair of pink rubber boots and yellow rubber gloves. Together, we started shoveling, digging and preparing the soil. At the end of the day, our clothes and boots were full of dirt and dust. But that was fun!

Valeria rakes the dirt

Want to know how to plant and grow all kinds of vegetables like cucumbers, sweet chilis, onions, coriander, radishes, basil, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes and other plants?

As a competition-winning gardener, I can tell you my top six tips to set up a sustainable vegetable garden:

  1. Know, prepare and fertilize your soil. Sometimes we might get frustrated because our seeds don’t sprout. But that’s because we didn’t choose the proper soil for planting. I planted an avocado tree with my parents, but we didn’t get the results we wanted because of the soil we chose.
  2. Leave a proper distance when spreading your seeds in the ground. When we planted sweet chilis and they grew, they bumped into each other because they didn’t have enough space!
Valeria holds 2 tomatoes
  1. Label your plants. With my parents, I decided to make homemade wooden plant labels to identify our vegetables and when we planted them. The labels helped us know how much water the vegetables needed and when they were going to bear fruit.
  2. Water your plants every day, early in the morning and at night. Prune dry leaves, clean up healthy leaves to remove dust, and watch out for insects and other animals that want to devour your plants! Because our neighbors’ chickens like visiting our backyard looking for food, my dad put up a metal fence around the seeds we planted.
Valeria waters a plant
  1. Wait for the right time to harvest your vegetables. We were so excited to collect sweet chilis for my mother’s cooking, but we did it too soon, and the chilis were not ready yet. We spoiled them and had to sow new ones.

    Keep in mind that the time it takes for the vegetables to grow is not the same. For example, radishes, basil, coriander and garlic take a week to grow. But potatoes, cucumbers and carrots take a couple of weeks.

  2. Leave the soil to rest once you harvest all your vegetables, at least for a few days. Then, start cleaning it up again, fertilize it and restart the sowing process all over!

The plant-a-garden contest taught me to take care of the environment and create a sustainable vegetable garden to feed my family. As a prize for the contest, I got fruit seeds to plant watermelon, pineapple, mangoes and other fruits. I’ll start to sow them soon in a new sustainable fruit garden.

My mother also decided to start selling ornamental plants like roses, cacti, water bamboo, lilies, lavender, geraniums, rosemary and others. We get customers every day who choose their favorite plant and get a pot with it.

Valeria shows off some of her plants

I really enjoy planting seeds, and instead of buying vegetables at the local market, now we get them in our backyard and eat healthier. I know that many children my age don’t like vegetables, but I love eating salads of cucumber, tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, broccoli and cabbage — especially because I grew them myself.

And now I hope you will too!

Help a Budding Gardener

a young boy stands in a field

You can give vegetable seeds to a family living in poverty.

a young boy stands in a field