encouraging youngsters to be gardeners; was Re: Gardening meets Econ 101

Jim McKenney jamesamckenney@verizon.net
Mon, 01 Oct 2012 10:31:05 PDT
Bill and Boyce have touched on a theme which has been on my mind a lot lately, especially since I'm giving a talk tomorrow which will touch on the events in my life which got me going in gardening.

In my case I was very lucky to live in a neighborhood where there was lots of horticulture going on. Even the men were involved - two had light tables and grew gesneriads under fluorescent lights. This was back in the mid-1950s. And there were adults who saw to it that I got lots of books, good books, to grow my interest. I would argue for giving kids books well above their level with the idea that they will eventually grow into them. That's what happened to me, and there were some books (a brick door stopper of a nature encyclopedia and a comprehensive garden book) which were my companions throughout my youth. One of the gardening books, the original pre-World War II edition of America's Garden Book, has been my steady companion since it was given to me when I was in my earliest teens over a half century ago. That nature encyclopedia, which came to me years before the garden book,  was where I first noticed scientific names: I noticed that one snake
 was called Boa constrictor and another was called Coluber constrictor. I was hooked.  Give kids books!

What we experienced with my niece gives another example. When she was very young, family circumstances were such that she spent a lot of time with my mom and me. Mom had her out in the garden catching butterflies, looking for toads, learning the birds; inside, we spent hours with her drawing and coloring and practicing penmanship. By the time she was in her teens and becoming a young adult we had the sense that we had lost her completely. The friends she had and the activities she was involved with in high school suggested that our influence had utterly worn off. She went on to graduate from college with a degree in graphic arts (all that time mom and I spent with her drawing didn't go to waste after all) and get married. No sooner did she and her husband settle in a house than the phone calls began: where should we put the bird feeder? When should we plant the lettuce? Can I grow my own tomatoes from seed or do I have to buy plants? 

So those happy childhood days spent in the garden with her grandmother and me were not forgotten. She's now the best vegetable grower in the family. And the relationship she has with her grandmother is a beautiful thing to see. 

So I say give them books, encourage whatever native interests they have, and give them lots of experiences to remember.

Give them bulbs, too! 

Jim McKenney

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