Read an Excerpt
Introduction -- The Wonder of Dirt
If at this moment you don't have any dirt under your fingernails, you may be wondering, "Why garden?" One answer is that any garden, no matter how small or limited, presents a season full of miracles you can give to your childrenand to yourself. Here are just a few of them.
The first miracle, at least from your children's perspective, is that you will be encouraging them to play with dirt./ The smaller the kids, the better they will think this is.
The second miracle is that you'll be in the dirt with them,/ and you know your kids' favorite thing to do is whatever you're doing. For once, even the little guys won't be in the way. Two-year-olds love to pull weeds; it satisfies their naturally destructive tendencies and your need to weed. Older kids can do anything the garden needs, and, by the end of the season, will be figuring out what's needed without being told. (How's that /for a miracle?)
The third miracle is that after all that playing with dirt and dropping little seeds into the dirt, it's time to play with the water hose! And dirty, sweaty old Mom and Dad won't even mind getting sprayed!
The fourth miracle is that a few days or weeks later, some green fuzz and spiky shoots will appear in the dirt.
The fifth miracle is the best of all: you and your kids will get to find out what food really tastes like, right out of the dirt.
If you'd like to offer yourself and your kids a yearful of miracles, this book will help you do it, a season at a timeor instantly, any time of year!
Chapter 1 -- Anytime, Instant Gardening
Gardening is a seasonal activity, with plenty to do in every season once you get started. But what if the gardening bug first bites in the middle of a long, hot summer or a blustery winter, and the last thing you want to think about is digging up part of your yard?
Never fear. Any time is the right time for you and your kids to start thinking about gardens. Let's begin with instant, anytime gardening, and then we'll work our way into the seasons that follow.
1. Remember that hydroponic potato you "planted" in water when you were a grade-school kid? Well, if your kids haven't done it yet, get a potato with some eyes on it and show them how to use toothpicks to suspend it over a jar of water. Set the potato-in-a-jar on a sunny windowsill and see what happens.
2. Garlic also offers fun-with-food possibilities. Put a few garlic cloves into a bowl of water so they can begin to soften and sprout, or use cloves that have already sprouted. Get some small flowerpots (plastic or clay). You can turn this into a real afternoon project by letting each kid decorate his or her own.
Use old spoons or small sand shovels to fill the pots with potting soil. (In the wintertime, kids think doing this in the tub is fun, and cleanup is easier. In the summer, just keep the garden hose handy.)
Give each kid a few garlic cloves to poke into the dirt. If the cloves have already sprouted, poke them in so the green shoots are headed up toward the surface. If the cloves have not sprouted, experiment by poking them in various positions. See which end is up! (Okay, if you must know, the sprout comes out of the pokey end, not the one where the clove was attached to the garlic head.)
3. If it's wintertime, think about ordering your kids a couple of amaryllis bulbs as a holiday gift. Several of the catalogs in the Resources section (pages 71-78) offer bulbs for "forcing."
4. In the spring you are liable to see some small trees sprouting in your yard, especially if you live near oaks and squirrels. Help your kids dig up seedlings that sprout from squirrels' buried treasures and put 'em in a pot. Baby trees make great gifts, whether for a birthday, wedding, housewarming, or even get-well present. Put on a tag with an occasion-specific message, such as "Happy birthday from the squirrels and me!"
5. Lots of catalogs and garden stores now offer gifts with the theme of "garden-in-a-box." These typically feature some potting soil and seeds, sometimes already mixed together, that you can water and sprout on a windowsill. These make great gifts for kids and older folks who may not get out as much as they'd like, and they are even more fun when you make your own. Simply put some potting soil in a pot, or line a bucket with plastic, tie a ribbon around, and present with seeds. The seed packet(s) can be glued to a stick poked into the soil or tied to the pot with the ribbon.