Gardening Books for Spring

My mom had a huge garden when I was growing up, so I spent a lot of my summer working in the dirt:  weeding, planting, weeding, watering, weeding, and harvesting.  Every once in a while I’m sure I expressed my dislike for the chores (complained constantly!) but those sweet strawberries and fresh beans and sugar peas sure did taste good!

My mom was surprised (shocked) that I started my own garden when I grew up (remember the complaining?), but I enjoyed growing my own food.  I didn’t experiment very much, but mostly just grew the same things my mom did.  But then my younger son Nathan came along.  He would come with me to the store to buy seeds, using the pictures on the seed packets to choose new plants for the garden.  The most interesting plant we ever had was a loofah gourd, which we actually did harvest and dry, and Nathan used it in the bath!

Now that spring is formally here (I say “formally” because we actually had snow three days ago),  it is a great time to read about gardens…and there are some wonderful new gardening books for preschool through elementary kids.

And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Erin Stead. 9781596436244. 2012. Gr PK-2.

Those of us who live where winter means white snow, and early spring means lots of brown, will relate to this book about waiting, waiting, waiting for that first sight of green.  A little boy plants some seeds and wishes for rain and something besides brown.  A week goes by, and he worries about his seeds and wonders if the birds are to blame, or maybe it’s the stomping bears.  Another week, and it is still brown—but a brown that “has a greenish hum that you can only hear if you put your ear to the ground and close your eyes.”  Charming illustrations by Caldecott winner Erin Stead add to this sweet story about anticipating spring.

Think Like a Scientist in the Garden by Matt Mullins. 9781610801669. 2012. Gr 3-6.

Science experiments aren’t only done by white-coated scientists in a carefully controlled laboratory.  This book teaches children how to search for answers in the garden. Photographs and illustrations help readers use their thinking and observation skills while studying plant life cycles, learning what makes plants green, and experimenting on acid rain. Follow the steps that scientists take…and find out how your garden grows.

How Does My Garden Grow? by DK Publishing. 9780756671945. 2011. Gr 2-5.

Using colorful photographs, How Does My Garden Grow? shows the whole process of planting seeds in a variety of containers and watching the plants grow—while learning about the parts of plants and their life cycles.  Activities, experiments, art projects, and even magic tricks add to the fun.

So you’ve planted your seeds and grown your plants and harvested your crops.  Now what?  These two new series go beyond the ordinary life-cycle gardening books to show children how to prepare their crops for the table.

Cool Basil from Garden to Table : How to Plant, Grow, and Prepare Basil from the Cool Garden to Table series, by Katherine Hengel. 9781617831829. 2012. Gr 3-6.

With pictures illustrating each step of growing and preparing, Cool Basil provides easy recipes with clear instructions for making six delicious dishes, including basil parmesan dip, Thai noodles and basil, and basil-lemon cake.  Each book also includes a two-page spread picturing all of the ingredients used in the recipes; another spread contains photos of all the tools needed; and a third spread uses photos to define cooking terms.  The other titles in the series give the same treatment to carrots, beans, leaf lettuce, potatoes, and tomatoes.  Yum!

Grow Your Own Sandwich from the Grow It Yourself! series, by John Malam. 9781432951085. 2012. Gr K-2.

Bright close-up photos show primary students how to grow tomatoes, what the different varieties look like, and how to make a delicious tomato and cheese sandwich.  Learn how to raise strawberries in Grow Your Own Smoothie, harvest fava beans in Grow Your Own Snack, and grow pumpkins in Grow Your Own Soup.  You can even learn about catnip in Grow Your Own Cat Toy.

I no longer have a vegetable garden, but I do have a couple small flower/shrub beds by my house.  Remember my dislike for weeding?  Still true, but now I display a small sign:  “Weeds for Sale—Pick Your Own.”

And here, just like zucchini, are a few more titles:

10 Hungry Rabbits : Counting & Color Concepts by Anita Lobel. 9780375968648. 2012. Gr PK-1.

First Garden : The White House Garden and How It Grew by Robbin Gourley.  9780547482248. 2011. Gr 1-3.

One Watermelon Seed by Celia Barker Lottridge, illustrated by Karen Patkau. 9781554550340. 2008. PK-1.

Planting the Wild Garden by Kathryn O. Galbraith, illustrated by Wendy Halperin. 9781561455638. 2011. Gr PK-2.

Secrets of the Garden : Food Chains and the Food Web in Our Backyard by Kathleen W. Zoehfeld, illustrated by Priscilla Lamont. 9780517709917. 2012. K-3.

Seed, Soil, Sun : Earth’s Recipe for Food by Cris Peterson. 9781590787137. 2010. Gr PK-3.

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