Perhaps you have a green thumb and could grow watermelons in the desert. Or maybe you couldn't grow weeds alongside a country road. It doesn't really matter. If you have kids, Beth Richardson's Gardening with Children is a practical and fun book that will guide the novice and the experienced gardener in making gardening an enjoyable family experience.

Richardson, the mother of two boys, takes a realistic approach. She neither attempts to make children into miniature adult gardeners nor abdicates the garden to the kids. Rather, Richardson has adapted gardening practices for children for the purpose of creating an "adult-centered garden that included and celebrated children." She writes, "I wanted to create a fabulous family garden, hoping my children would view gardening as a wondrous adventure and the garden as a playground and laboratory." Think about what most kids love to do outside. Given the opportunity, they will usually get dirty and, if possible, wet. Gardening involves doing both of these things. It also encourages children to dream and use their imaginations, and provides a sense of responsibility and accomplishment.

The first section of Gardening with Children walks gardeners through the practical steps of planning, preparing, and planting a garden. The book contains easy-to-understand instructions and warnings, along with clear charts, diagrams, and pictures to illustrate the author's points. At the end of the book, Richardson includes a USDA Hardiness Zone Map to help gardeners select what to plant, as well as a resource list for further assistance.

The second section suggests ways to make gardening fun for children. For example, there's the pizza garden, which is not only used to grow many of the ingredients needed to make pizza, but which is also planted in the shape of a pizza. Several recipes using items from the garden are provided, as are ideas for family projects such as making a scarecrow.

As a parent and a corporate attorney, Richardson has a realistic understanding of what families can manage and what they will enjoy. In this book for parents and other caregivers, she also seems to know that getting dirty together in the garden grows lots more than summer vegetables.

Review by Jeff Stephens.

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