Gardening with Kids

Collection Notes

Gardening with kids can be an adventure, as the stories in this collection attest.

Gardening with kids can be educational, fun, frustrating, and humorous, but it’s always an adventure. Younger kids can dig or just enjoy being outside in the fresh air. Older kids can learn about weeding, how to know when a vegetable is ripe, or the difference between a honeybee and a wasp. READ MORE

Bill Dugan


The Upside-Down Flower Tree

The Upside-Down Flower Tree

My wife and I were beaming. We were attending our first parent-teacher conference and receiving all sorts of accolades from Lance’s kindergarten teacher regarding our son. He was respectful, followed directions, knew all the vowel and consonant sounds, and colored within the lines.  READ MORE
kids looking at strange man over the fencs


Elementary school is supposed to be a special time in our lives. However, as far as I can remember, my most fond memories of elementary school were recess and fire drills. Other than that, I absolutely hated school.  READ MORE
granddaughter with Grandpa

Blackberries with Grandpa

I was 2 years old when I went to a family reunion at my great-grandparents’ house in Sodaville, OR. There was no food I liked to eat at the party; no chicken nuggets, no pizza, no French fries—nothing! Thus, I ran to the little garden in the back with a blackberry bush where I spent…  READ MORE
Girl Reading under the tree

Reading to a Willow

One evening last Summer, as my husband and I took a walk around our neighborhood, we stumbled upon a beautiful sight. Coming up to the home of one of our favorite families, we noticed Gwen , their 4-1/2-year-old daughter, sitting under a weeping willow tree. She had a large book in her lap and was…  READ MORE

Charlotte’s Garden

If I close my eyes, I can see my grandmother tending her glorious San Francisco Bay Area garden on a sunny afternoon. I am four years old, wearing an oversized bonnet and holding a little watering can.  READ MORE

The Great Tomato Fight of 1957

Warm and fuzzy were not two adjectives used to describe my grandmother. With two rocks in her apron pocket, she might have tipped the scales at 100 pounds.   READ MORE

My Dinosaur Bromeliad

Hey, Mom,” my nine-year-old son Andy called to me from the living room. “Brett wants to know about your new plant. What is it?”  READ MORE

Cambodian Flower

Lea was 9 years old when she was adopted into our family. A mere three days after she came to the United States from Cambodia in November, it snowed. Long Island, New York, isn’t known for its snow, so this was quite a surprise dusting for us natives.  READ MORE

Mrs. Fortin’s Garden

I grew up in Southern California during the 1950s. My father proudly built our square little bungalow alongside several others in a row on Moorpark Street in Los Angeles.   READ MORE

Secret Sunflowers

My cell phone buzzed. It was the Realtor again. What will it be this time? Good news or bad? “Hi, Betty,” I answered, bracing myself for news of another fallen contract. “We have a closing date. Start packing!” said Betty. She knew how badly I needed to sell.  READ MORE

The Little School Garden That Didn’t

I really don’t think I should be the person teaching young children to garden.” These were the words I said when I was asked to serve as the Garden Leader at the Georgia elementary school where I teach. In past years, a skilled Master Gardener had told the students exactly when and how to tend the lovely vegetation that graced the children’s raised beds.  READ MORE

Changing Gardens

No one should ever sell a house. I’m serious—it’s pure misery and stress, from listing all the way through to closing (Don’t even get me started on buying.READ MORE

Tiny Gardeners

With an armful of potting soil, packaged seeds, and last month’s newspapers, I prepare for a day of work. No, I’m not a professional gardener or a horticulturalist. I am a public librarian and I have a roomful of eager children waiting for me. The theme of today’s program, as you probably guessed, is gardening.  READ MORE

How to Farm With Children

Pregnancy—Keep working outside every day. When feeling nauseated in the Spring, slowly pick and munch on raw kale buds while working and hope it’s nutrition your body needs. When it gets hot in the Summer, work in the morning, but seek shade in the afternoons.  READ MORE

Dandelions For Sale

The year was 1962. My dad and I were standing on our front lawn. Arms crossed, he surveyed the scene before him, a grim look on his face. “These weeds are a menace,” he pronounced, as if our front yard had become the beachhead for a botanical invasion.  READ MORE

Pull, I Mean, Push!

I was 9-1/2 years old in April, 1970 when my family moved from our two-bedroom home on a tiny city lot to a brick foursquare on three acres of land. It was a compromise between my urban-raised Dad and my farm-raised Mom.  READ MORE

My Son Jack

My son Jack is the tallest kid in his class—by quite a bit. He has an arm on him a few coaches say they’ve never seen. I first realized his strength when he was two. We were in a crowded grocery store the day before Thanksgiving.   READ MORE

I Heard Corn Grow

I grew up on a large dairy farm, the sixth of seven children, and the fourth girl. My time with Dad usually occurred working in the fields. The first time I skipped school to help, I was about 10 years old.  READ MORE

The Vole Truth

My wife and I have nine children living at our rural Oregon homestead. For us, teaching the ways of nature to the next generation is just as important as raising produce—small wonder we call the place Little Sprouts Farm.  READ MORE

The Little Girl with the Hose

Last spring, a group of gardeners here in our rural North Carolina town wanted to do a spring service project for our community. We decided to create a small garden at a local school, with six-year old children.  READ MORE

These Days, Too, Have Passed

McKenzie was the first to grace and bless my garden. As soon as I could, I brought this baby girl to my garden of refuge: refuge from anything, anything at all.  READ MORE

A Whole Bunch of Fishies!

As I stepped from my car, my five-year-old nephew, Mark, immediately grabbed my hand and started yanking me along. “Oh, wow, Mark, what’s up? Where are you dragging me off to?” “You’ll see, Unka!” Mark exclaimed. He led me around the house to the carefully planted garden in the back. The vegetables were just beginning…  READ MORE

Bernadette’s Spot

I am not sure if I could be considered a successful gardener or not. I certainly have the desire, and I spend my fair share of time working around the yard. Results are mixed.  READ MORE

The Botanical Magician

Dad may have been a geologist at work, but the first spring in our new Baton Rouge yard, my brother Dave and I learned he was also a botanical magician. A magician who had one remarkable trick: getting us to work in the garden.  READ MORE

My Garden Origin Story

When I was six years old, I wanted a tortoise. I really, really wanted a tortoise. My whole life revolved around getting a tortoise. My parents, thinking that this was a childhood whim (“Next week he’ll want parakeets”), dismissed my pleas.  READ MORE

The Great Cantaloupe Contest

Giant pumpkins were my childhood. I spent count-less hours toiling alongside my brother and father in Missouri’s summer heat and humidity, because fairy godmothers aren’t real and if you want a coach-sized pumpkin, it takes work.  READ MORE

Gardening with Emerson

Emerson was nine months old when his family moved in—a chubby-cheeked, curly-haired baby with big blue eyes. The house his parents were remodeling was right next to my property. Only a rickety old fence and a few evergreen shrubs separated their backyard from the vegetable and flower gardens in mine.  READ MORE

The Little Boy with the No-Spinach Blues

Blake, my firstborn, started helping in the garden when he was two years old. He wanted to plant the spinach by himself, so I dug the row and Blake planted the seeds. (Of course, he clumped too many in one spot. I spread them out when he wasn’t looking.) After they sprouted, he helped me…  READ MORE

Now You See

My grandfather was born Henry, but everyone called him John. He felt that Henry made him sound like royalty—“and I haven’t done anything to deserve that.” Of course, I didn’t call him John or Henry—but Grandfather. Grandfather was an old-school gentleman in just about every way.  READ MORE

Outsmarting Mother

“Mom! He pulled my hair!” I shouted, leaning over the oak banister. I held my head in exaggerated pain. “She knocked my toys over first!” Don complained. “Will you two be quiet? I’m reading!” screamed Diane. “You’re the one making all the noise!” said Dale.   READ MORE

Kids and Gardening

My first gardening experience was a memorable moment in my life. It took place when I was five years old. With reckless abandon, I took a hoe and made a smooth and inviting road for my toy truck—right through my mother’s pansy bed.  READ MORE

Nana’s Garden

I had definitely decided to give up fruit and vegetable gardening. Just flowers from now on. Oh, I’ll keep the pumpkin and gourd patch that spreads over the side yard—if the seedlings survive the beetles. And I do love straight-from-the-stalk sweet corn.  READ MORE

How My Grandpa Got Locked in the Tool Shed

It takes a special approach to make gardening fun for children. My dear late Grandpa Adrian clearly did not understand this concept—and, due to this, ended up locked in his backyard tool shed. I still say that it wasn’t really my fault.  READ MORE

Tending Beauty

Working in my garden is a lot like raising my girls. I often think about what I should do to make both it and them beautiful and healthy and strong. And although I weed and discipline, sometimes it feels as though I’m not really making a difference. There always seems to be one more problem to sort out.  READ MORE

Show-and-Tell Potatoes

A couple of years ago, we moved to a place with a large lot. I borrowed my dad’s rototiller, broke up a large area, and planted rows of vegetables. Our son Paul, eight, and daughter Paula, five, helped us plant the seeds. Then we covered them and watered the garden.  READ MORE

Wishing Flowers

I bought two flats of ice plant today. Ice plant was a sensible choice. Extremely drought-and salt-tolerant, it thrives in the poorest soil, forming a ground-hugging mat of succulent foliage covered with fringed flowers.  READ MORE

Looking for Asparagus

We are just sitting down for a family dinner to celebrate Mother’s Day. My parents had six children, and we have all the families together for this special day. An appetizing meal awaits. Mom prepared a delicious brown-sugar ham, and each family brought a side dish to complement the meal. Almost unthinkingly, we avoid serious topics of conversation like work, schedules, and finances. Instead, we reminisce, sharing fond memories.  READ MORE

Dandelions Never Give Up

Gardeners always groan but children grin—when their parents aren’t looking—as they make wishes and blow seed heads in the wind. My dear mother hated dandelions in our yard, prodding and poking them with a fork-like tool before spraying weed killer to end their—well, her—misery. It wasn’t long after she was laid to rest in 1994 that I visited her grave and spotted one lonely dandelion rising in the center of her grave.  READ MORE

The Nest Robbers

I remember how I learned it from my dad. The grass was dripping with dew, and the quiet bubble of mid-Summer rested heavily upon the blooming alfalfa.  READ MORE
The Woman in Black

The Woman in Black

The Summer of 1955, I was 5 years old: impressionable, imaginative, and gullible to no end. Being the youngest child and only girl, I was a bit of a tomboy. I adored my older brothers. I depended on them for much of my childhood entertainment, companionship—and education.  READ MORE
Kids playing with mud

So Much and So Many

Summertime has always meant sun, dirt, and mud to me. It means longer days. Most of all, Summertime means abundance.  READ MORE
Two Small, Small

Two Small, Small

How long is “for a while?” In hindsight, perhaps I should have asked that question at the outset of this adventure. With hindsight, I will say that “for a while” can prove to be highly variable; sometimes much too long, but in our case, much too short.  READ MORE

Gardening for Mom

My mother is a Master Gardener: she received her certification from Michigan’s Wayne State University when I was a young girl. I remember the garden being her retreat from a stressful job as a nightshift ER nurse and a failing marriage. Whenever she had free time, you’d find her weeding, watering, or tending to whatever else the gardens needed.  READ MORE

A Heartwarming Harvest (with audio)

What could be in this big box?” asked Beth, my adult daughter, as she started to open it. “It’s not my birthday or anything.” “I know,” I replied. “but it’s just the perfect time for it.”  READ MORE

The Green Wars (with audio)

Raising five kids, my father never had much green stuff in his wallet, but he had a green thumb on his hand and “went green” in the 50’s—long before it was the in thing to do.  READ MORE

The Thankful Game (with audio)

“My family,” says my mom, Elizabeth. “Desserts,” says my Aunt Anne. “The breeze,” says my father, Lee, with eleven green beans in his hand. “Air conditioning,” says my youngest sister, Jean, as she gets up to bring water to the group. “The last bucket of beans,” I mumble while swapping out a full five-gallon bucket for an empty one.  READ MORE

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