Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Too Wet for Gardening? Not Too Wet for Reading . . .

Here in the Midwest, it’s been a soggy spring – not the best for early gardening outdoors. Even so, there are things we can do to encourage a love for gardening: starting seeds indoors, looking through gardening wishbooks (otherwise known as catalogs), reading up on new plants, or new ways of doing familiar tasks in the garden.

And we can read those books about gardens and gardening with the people we love.

Here are some of my favorite garden books to share with the kids I love:

** Of course, for the youngest set, Beatrix Potter’s Peter Cottontail books. I remember being all curled up in a big double bed while my grandma read them to me and my sister when we were little girls. Peter was her special favorite – I think she had a thing for bad little rabbits! I can remember looking at the pictures of Mr. MacGregor’s garden and wishing I could visit. These gentle stories are still fun to read to little people.

** The Gardener, by Sarah Stewart, tells the story of a little girl who’s been transplanted into the city during the Depression. In this Caldecott Honor book, the seeds her grandma sent with her from the family farm transform her corner of the city as well as the people who live there.

** Mrs. Spitzer’s Garden, by Edith Pattou, is a fun book about a different kind of gardener. Perfect for the child who will be going to school next year for the first time!

So, what garden books do you like to read with the kids you love?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Grow a Garden, Grow a Relationship . . .

Want to have a lot of fun with the kids you love? Grow a garden together.

Sharing an interest in something green and growing will help to grow your relationship, too.

Plan what to plant together, and keep track of how it grows. Even if you don’t live near one another, you can share your experiences by e-mail, or snail mail, or on Skype, or by taking photographs of what’s happening in your garden and sending them to one another. Ask questions. Volunteer information. Look things up together, either online or at your local library, and share what you find out. Rejoice in one another’s successes, and learn from each other’s mistakes.

If you live close enough to one another to actually share the work of a garden, share the work! Invite the kids you love to help you get the soil ready and plant together. Water, mulch, and cultivate together. Pull weeds together. Keep track of how the garden is doing together. Harvest flowers and vegetables together. Put the flowers on the dining room table, prepare the vegetables, and share a meal together, and enjoy the fruit of your patience and labor – together.

It takes patience to grow a gardener. Kids who are just beginning to garden are almost sure to walk in the wrong places, water the weeds, and pull the carrots out before they’re quite ready, just to check on them. (Seriously, how do you think chefs figured out the value of baby carrots?)

Working together in a garden is one way to encourage the kids you love to appreciate gardening. It’s more than that, though. The conversations you have about gardening – whether they are long-distance or in person conversations – help shape your relationship. And the experiences you share -- having fun together, learning new skills, accomplishing something tangible – nurture the relationship and help it grow.

Watch for more ideas in the days ahead!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Spring Planting Time!

This time of year, I love to find seed packets at the grocery store.

What a fun thing to share with your grandchildren!

Why not pick up a packet of radish seeds, or sunflower seeds, or seeds for some other green and growing thing, and send it to your grandchild, along with a note encouraging them to try planting it?

And while you’re at it, share your seed-stories with them. Tell them about the gardens you’ve grown, or the vegetables you’ve harvested. Share your stories about herbs, or four-o-clocks, or zinnias as an encouragement.

Pick up a few seed packets for your own garden, too, and let your grandkids know what you’ll be trying your green thumb at this season!

Watch for more grandkid-gardening ideas in the days ahead!