By Beth Benjamin, Horticultural Advisor at Renee’s Garden
As the Renee’s Garden Horticultural Advisor, I get letters from grandparents asking for recommendations for children’s gardening books. In my experience, a love for books and for plants are the two best gifts you can give a child – gifts that will last a lifetime. Even if circumstances don’t always allow for actual gardening, being rooted early in the principles and practice of growing things will instill a lifelong appreciation for food, flowers, farmers, cooking and wild nature too.
I do think introducing kids to gardening activities works best when parents are also gardening, for a child to have a corner of a parent’s garden so there is always something thriving that isn’t dependent on the child’s attention (just in case) to ensure success, and because working outside with another person nearby feels so good.
There are several books I’d love to recommend. Life Lab is a non-profit organization based in Santa Cruz, California that is a national leader in farm and garden based education. They have many charming and useful publications that bring learning to life in the garden. I bought their Kid’s Garden Activity Cards and The Book of Garden Projects for Kids
for my daughter who was working with her school’s garden as well as with her own children at home.
Author and garden educator Sharon Lovejoy
has written several great books on children’s gardening that definitely work well to encourage family gardening. My favorite is Sunflower Houses: Inspiration from the Garden - A Book for Children and Their Grown-Ups
Some lifestyle stores are also great resources. For example, Susanna James is one of our new California customers who has created a lively store called Dandelions that has been voted Style Magazine’s #1 Reader’s Choice in her El Dorado foothills region for both toy and children’s stores. In the store, Susanna has created a cozy gardening corner with tools, books and Renee’s Garden seed selections chosen especially for kids’ gardening. Her mission of raising children naturally and celebrating childhood with art and imagination ties into making gardening part of the growing up experience.
To that end, Renee’s Garden now offers a Children's Collection
with specially chosen seeds. My own grandkids’ first choices year after year are Sugar Snap peas
, Baby Green Fingers cucumbers
, Sungold tomatoes
and Musica beans
. We plant them in the bed along the fence on the way through the back yard from my front door to their porch. There is something thrilling about picking a sweet crunchy pod or a golden tomato nugget off a tall vine, and they quickly learn how not to pull the plants’ tendrils off their supports. But the girls’ newest favorite is Mikado, the baby Japanese turnip coming to Renee’s Garden in 2014!