I’ve got dirty fingernails. I’m sorry, I know we just met. Is that too much information? But seriously, this time of year my nails seem to be in constant need of some face-time with a manicurist. But I don’t really consider it a problem; it’s more of a blessing. Because this time of year is when I play in the dirt and the mud and soil. I become a missionary for composting, and my little guy and I get outside and garden.

I’m giddy when the first signs of our seeds peek through the soil. This year’s radish sprouts did not disappoint and the peas are already poking their starts towards the heavens. Maybe you are experiencing this as well?

Last month I challenged you to watch Food, Inc. And whether you’re feeling overwhelmed, enthused, motivated or unaffected, the journey continues. While there are a myriad of places to start or improve on your family’s “Journey to Green” (Practically Green has to be one of my favorite websites for sustainable living!), I found the greatest impact for our family has not been cloth diapering or the change to chlorine-free recycled paper towels (I save way more money just washing dish and cleaning rags anyway), but in paying better attention to what we eat.

Enter THE GARDEN!

No, I’m not going all Barbara Kingsolver on you and asking you to live off the land for a year, though that woman’s story is dang inspiring! But it is the perfect time of year to plant something. And if you’re already in the habit of gardening, keep up the great work and share your secrets with the rest of us on how you’ve been successful. There’s actually an awesome opportunity for that NOW with this weekend’s M&T Spotlight section! So click on over and share your secrets on gardening greatness!

If your garden space is limited (apartment complex, etc), consider container plants as a viable option. Herbs that you cook with often are a great place to start: at our house that would mean basil, oregano, rosemary and parsley. Anything makes a difference. Of course the web in chock full of ideas, but About.com’s got a great tutorial to start.

Gardening is a great family activity and a wonderful opportunity for children to connect with the planet, better understand the seasons and gain an appreciation of where food actually comes from. It’s a fabulous physical activity where kids (and parents!) can get outdoors and learn patience, responsibility and teamwork. Picky eaters may even surprise you by trying out the food they’ve cultivated. I’m pretty sure our toddler ate his weight in cherry tomatoes from the vine last summer!

Imagine the freedom that comes from being ok with your child “eating dirt” because it happens to be covering a carrot, freshly plucked from the ground! Forget hiding fruits and veggies in purees. A garden is a literal treasure-trove of delights and experience waiting for you and yours to uncover…oh, and eat!

So for this month’s challenge, get DIRTY and GROW SOMETHING!

BabyZone’s article “Ready Set Grow: The Benefit’s of Gardening with Children” extols the beauties of gardening with your little ones, what to watch out for and some great tips for getting started. You can also check out Marie’s posts on her Square Foot Gardening successes of the past.

Plus, after some serious time of playing with the kiddos and Mother Earth, you should probably treat yourself to some spa time – might a suggest a good manicure?