Plant a garden!: books

Every year (around February, when we're really feeling cooped up) we look forward to planning our garden, planting the seeds, and waiting for sprouts to appear. We've had a garden every year since we married, but having children has made it so much more worthwhile, and way more fun (if infinitely more challenging!). Gardening alone--let alone with kids--is such a huge topic, though, that there will be a number of posts over the next few weeks covering what you need to know to plant a few seeds in a windowsill or a big vegetable garden.
We live in Colorado, which is unique in that we have a relatively short season (our last average frost isn't until May 15, and we can expect it to freeze sometime around September 15). In contrast, I grew up in the California Bay Area where we could expect an extra 2.5 months to grow stuff (and things that die off here, like rosemary, are perennial there). (To find your frost dates you can check here or here) This makes it really tough to grow fun things like watermelon, cantaloupe, and artichokes...unless you start the seeds indoors. (We're trying this for the first time this year and have had good luck so far, but more on that later).

Anyhow, when I have a question I usually start with books!

I started with two of Sharon Lovejoy's books on gardening with kids:
Roots, Shoots, Buckets, and Boots: Gardening with Children is truly stellar. It provides such great information on gardening in general, but focuses on how to make it fun and engaging for children. Her ideas are really adapted for everything from growing a few seeds in a container (like a colander!) to planting a big garden with older children, or growing Sunflower Houses.

We've also gone through a variety of kids' picture books on plants and gardening that we either own or borrow from the library:

Sunflower Houses by Eve Bunting is a nice story about a boy who plants a ring of mammoth sunflowers and waits patiently for them to grow taller than himself, into a house. It also discusses how seeds come from plants and enable future generations to grow, as well as the importance of caring for living things. It's a sweet, colorful book, simple enough for little ones, but with enough information to keep preschoolers-early grade schoolers interested.

Growing Vegetable Soup, by Lois Ehlert focuses on the process of planting seeds, plants growing, producing fruit, and finally preparing it to eat. Ehlert's classic style of illustration is bold, colorful, and engaging for younger children (but a little simple for school-aged kids). We find that growing vegetables makes eating them way more fun, and this book really encourages that!

How A Seed Grows, by Helene Jordan is less storybook than science lesson. The author takes children through the process of growing seeds, illustrating what happens at each step. I wish it had a little more of the "why" than just the "how", but it was a great jumping off point for discussing what is going on beneath the soil. I would say it's best for three year olds and up, although Jasper (2.5) understood some of it.

Finally, we love The Ladybug Game. It's not focused on gardening per se, but you take your ladybug through the garden collecting aphids, then have to share them with the ants to get to the end. It really is a fun game (and great for kids who love ladybugs, or dress up like them as my children seem to do), and introduces the idea of beneficial insects and garden pests.

Well, I hope this gets you started, I'll post more on this in the coming weeks!
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