This time 3 years ago I had just set out on an adventure that – although I didn’t realise it at the time – was going to change my family’s life and how we spend our days really rather considerably. We’d not long moved house and for the first time I had a garden. Despite having very little gardening experience I soon caught the bug for growing my own fruit and veg – perhaps because at times it’s the grown up equivalent of kids messing about with mud.
First M and now J too wanted to get their fingernails grubby alongside mine, and before long they had both learned that the only good slug was a stamped-on slug Now, every spring we spend as much time as possible (and it is never seemingly enough given the vagaries of English weather) in our garden sowing seeds and preparing the soil for bounty later in the year.
There are lots of perfectly good non-fiction books for children about gardening, but I’ve yet to find one that has inspired and taught M, J and me as much as the (fiction) picture book Eddie’s Garden: and How to Make Things Grow By Sarah Garland. This is a story of a family working together over the course of one growing season to create an urban vegetable garden from scratch. Along the way, the two children, Eddie and his cheeky younger sister Lily learn a great deal about being green fingered, from how to collect and sow different seeds, the role of different insects in the garden to how to catch and (organically) dispatch every gardener’s no.1 enemy, the slug.
Four pages of child friendly notes are found at the back of this book providing further detail on how to grow the various vegetables and other plants mentioned in the text, as well as some sound advice on soil preparation, container gardening and pests, amongst other things.
If you want to start gardening with kids this is the very first book I would thrust into your hands! For a start it is a full of information that my kids have hungrily absorbed without any real awareness that they’ve been learning the basis of photosynthesis, food chains and sustainability. The story itself is beautifully and simply told with a good dose of humour and acute observation about family life. I’m sure it’s such a hit with M because the whole garden creation id driven by the children – it is their idea and vision which the adults in the story simply help to facilitate.
Although I can’t believe the text wouldn’t leave you wanting to start gardening, should you have any doubts about the venture Garland’s detailed, warm illustrations will definitely win you over. her observations of slightly chaotic (but all the more recognisable for that) family life, full of love and fun, reminds me (in terms of their content, though not especially their execution) of Shirley Hughes.
There is LOTS of advice out there about gardening with kids, but here are my top tips based on the last 3 springs I’ve shared with my girls.
Eddie’s Garden: and How to Make Things Grow *** (3 stars)
Some music to garden by (and these are *really* good!)….
And if it’s raining and you can’t get out in to the garden here are some other gardening activities you could try :
Do you garden with your kids? What are your top tips? If you don’t garden with your kids, and would like to, what advice would help you get going?