Friday, April 3, 2015

A Young Garden Book Author & her Dad

This is Emma standing beside the mammoth-sized sunflowers she grew from seed last summer. Emma is an elementary school student, and most recently, a co-author and illustrator of a book about gardening with kids.

She is 9 years old.

A young Emma in the garden. ©2015 Grow Gardeners 

How you view age is relative to where you are in life. When I was 9, I used to think 30 was "old". But now that I have stepped over the great divide that puts me closer to 60 than 50, I see 30 as impossibly young.

Why bring up the issue of age?

Have you ever looked around you at a garden club meeting? There is a lot of "older" folks and not nearly as many people under the age of 35. Part of me wonders if a love of gardening comes with maturity along with an appreciation of mushrooms, spinach and Brussels sprouts. But the other part of me worries that gardening has failed to capture the imagination of younger generations.

How can we pass on a love of gardening to our children and grandchildren?

Working in partnership with her Dad, author and horticulturist Steve Biggs, Emma has helped to write a short book, Grow Gardeners, that suggests that there are four ingredients to making gardening fun for kids: Playing, Exploring, Collecting and Growing.

As well as being the author of two previous books on gardening, Steve Biggs is the proud father of three young children. Steve believes that it our responsibility as adults and gardeners to help kids realize how much fun the garden can be. Steve writes, "It's easy to make the garden a fun place for children because they have imagination, energy and curiosity. All we as adults have to do is channel that spirit towards the garden."

Steve, Emma and her brothers Quinn and Keaton

Steve advises we adopt a child-like approach: Peak their curiosityLaugh. Be playful. "If you need to work, dovetail your work into play. My kids like train rides after I empty the wheelbarrow. "Hit the bumps, Dad," they howl. We are playing together while I work."

Foster play in the garden:"I think the best way to cultivate play is to be playful. Stimulate play by providing ideas, if needed." 

Steve's "tool kit for play" involves simple, everyday items like leaves, soil, garden tools and water. We adults forget the joy a puddle can bring or how much fun it is to play in the mud.

Emma's illustration from the book.  ©2015 Grow Gardeners

Emma: "Playing with the hose is I think one of my favourite things outside because you can get soaking wet. You can make many cool things when you're allowed to use the hose: we dig in the dirt, make mud pie, we make rivers, we make dams."

Cultivate collecting: Long buried memories of childhood came flooding back as I read through the chapter on exploring. It's been a while, but I warmly recall lifting up stones to see what's scurrying and crawling underneath. Here is a small sampling of the book's super simple, absolutely fun ideas for exploring:
• Crawl through the lawn looking for a four-leaf clover.
• Walk toward a chirping cricket and see how close you can get before it stops chirping.
• Touch, taste and smell leaves in a herb garden.
• Blow, flick and kick dandelion seed heads. Run through a field of them!

Cultivate exploring:  On Steve and Emma's list of things to encourage kids to explore nature are everyday items like a basket for gathering things or a jar for collecting insects. Here's just a few of the book's suggestions to get kids exploring:
• Start a collection of feathers. Frame them or put the collection in an album.
• Press leaves between the pages of a book for later use, to be traced or identified.
• Collect pine cones for crafts

Cultivate Growing: Steve advises that once children enjoy playing and exploring outdoors, gardening is the next step. Just don't expect kids to garden exactly the same way adults do! Instead Steve recommends that when gardening with kids, make adjustments like using larger seeds such as peas and sunflowers that can be "poked" right into a loose soil.

Steve:"Strawberries are a good choice for small children, as plants are low to the ground and strawberries are sweet. Digging potatoes- which are like buried treasure- is fun too."

The chapter on growing includes terrific a list of kid friendly garden themes such as an alphabet garden, butterfly garden and a salsa garden where your kids grow all the ingredients.

Steve and Emma's book, Grow Gardeners, is not long- I read it in about an hour. And that's perfect! If you're a busy parent, the last thing you want to do is read a lengthy book. The suggested ideas are laid out in simple point form that allows you to quickly find activity to make the garden a fun place for your kids or grandkids.

Emma's illustration from the book.  ©2015 Grow Gardeners

If you pop over to see Emma's blog, you'll find a list of veggies she hopes to grow this spring: red iceburg lettuce, banana legs tomato and dragon carrots to name but a few. She notes,"I grew dragon carrots last year and they were great. They are a bright red carrot and something you will not see in the store. I've grown giant sunflowers before and they were HUGE."

Emma's proud parents are delighted with her enthusiasm for gardening. Steve writes, "We're simply sowing the foundation of a life-long love of the outdoors."

I honestly can't think of a better ambition when it comes to gardening with kids.

I have a copy of Grow Gardeners to give away to one lucky reader. Just add "Count me in" to your comment if you would like to be included in the book draw.

More Information and Links:

About the Authors:

Emma Biggs is an elementary school student with a passion for gardening and drawing. She often helps her father, Steven, at gardening events. A tireless scribbler and doodler, this is Emma's first book.

Visit Emma's blog.

Steve Biggs is an award winning journalist and author specializing in gardening, farming and food production. A life-long gardener, he favours a practical and fun approach to things. His book No Guff Vegetable Gardening, co-authored with Donna Balzer is a Canadian best seller. Grow Your Own Figs Where You Think You Can't is the winner if the 2012 Silver Award of Achievement, Garden Writers Association.
Visit the Grow Gardeners website to purchase a copy of Steve and Emma's book.


  1. Very, very cute and ambitious young girl. I admire her dad too for instilling the love of gardening in her at such a young age. Like you mentioned, garden clubs are filled with women in their 70's and very few members are under 60. It is the same with our Master Gardener group as well. I joined both groups because of my design job, but getting younger members has not happened in all the years I have been a member.

  2. I have never been a member of a gardening club so I didn’t know they were for just old people :-)
    I hope one day my son and his girlfriend will give me grandchildren and you can be sure I will take them with me out in the garden to work long before they can walk. The book sounds like an inspiration to anyone wanting to include children to their gardening work.

  3. I'm sure this book is useful for gardeners - parents with kids. maybe this girl be a good gardener when is adult.

  4. That's so cool. I guess I thought younger people were interested in gardening?? I read somewhere they are more concerned about what they eat then our generation was since they have been brought up on organic foods?? (or at least some of them have) I did read they don't want fussy gardens, because they are busy but I am thinking low maintenance gardens could suit a lot of us!! I know I am appreciating that concept more. I have been in a couple of garden clubs & they were mostly older women but I thought just because they had the time & weren't working & raising children???

  5. What an inspiring post, I loved it! What a dad eh? Now if only all adults got their kids gardening, how good it would be, and I'm sure obesity in children would fall

  6. There should be more Steve Biggs. He seems to be doing very good work. I think there are a few things working against gardening. First, it is true that it has always attracted older people in part because it is easier to get involved when you own a space to garden in. Second, our culture is more attracted to the virtual than the actual contact with nature. So fewer people garden just like fewer people go camping (the number in national parks gets lower every year). Gardening is a lot of work which you have to learn to enjoy which is difficult. However there will always be children like Emma, which is reassuring. I have a 6 year old nephew who likes nothing better than help his granny in the garden.


  8. Count me in! We have moved into a new house with a bare back yard. Our grandchildren love to help us work (and play) at turning it green.

  9. I so enjoyed this post. When growing up we were fortunate to enjoy a lovely nice size garden and parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles alike all shared a love of gardening. I can remember playing 'find the fairy' game with my Gran ...... great fun in the garden whilst all the time she was telling me the names of different plants and flowers. I did my best to pass this on to my children, with varying results, but I am pleased to see my grandchildren now enjoying these games too.

    Here in the UK more and more flats/apartments are being built. Families do not seem to have the gardens or time to spend and share ..... this is a shame. Of course there are still many that do and it is to the young that we must pass on this great fulfillment and joy that a garden can bring.

    Lovely post and admiration to Emma and Steve.

    All the best Jan

  10. Sweet! As someone who began gardening at the age of 7, I can appreciate this perspective!! Have a great day!

  11. What a great book and such an interesting family! It's amazing in one generation we have lost a connection to nature and importantly where our food comes from. I know what you mean about the gardening clubs. Mind you I have the whitest hair- most probably by choice! And sixty is looming , how can this be and where did the time go!!

  12. very very impressive child and very very impressive parents.

  13. Count me in! This is so awesome. I started gardening in my first apartment at the age of 19, and can't imagine a life without it, twenty years later. Our kids have been in the yard with me, literally, since birth. I hope it encourages a lifetime of gardening love for them.

  14. If it is not too late to enter the drawing, I'd like to be included! How fun and yes, I have noticed that few young people participate in gardening clubs. And it isn't just gardening clubs, its groups that do volunteer work and so on. Most under 35'ers are more likely to volunteer at their child's elementary school and there is usually not a lot of time for other hobbies. One of my new neighbors works full time and she has very little time for her yard. Everyone is different. I consider it a sign of wealth if you can have the time to pursue your garden and share it with your kids and others. This looks like a great book for children and parents too.

  15. This is wonderful when parents teach their kids what is important in life. I bet they are very happy children!


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