2019 National Children and Youth Garden Symposium


I know cold weather has over stayed its welcome in many areas of the country, but believe it or not, summer is just around the corner. I wanted to use today’s blog to encourage you to consider attending this year’s National Children and Youth Garden Symposium Conference which will be held July 10-13th in Madison, Wisconsin.

Since 1993, The American Horticultural Society’s National Children and Youth Garden Symposium has served as a catalyst for growth in the youth garden movement.  Bringing together administrators, educators, volunteers, and parents for networking and professional development, the Conference is a source of knowledge, inspiration and rejuvenation.  Each year there is a diverse line up of sessions and workshops representing youth gardening programs from all over the country.  Attendees represent public and private school gardens, community and nonprofit organizations, universities and colleges, botanical gardens and arboreta, the horticulture industry, and much more. There truly is something for everyone. As much as I enjoy the formal sessions, what I love most are the opportunities to network which are plentiful throughout the conference.

Conveniently scheduled in mid-July when school is out of session, to me it comes at the perfect time of the year too.  After a busy spring garden season, I am feeling as exhausted as the plants in my garden and getting the chance to remind myself why I do what I do, helps re-charge me for the fall. I always come away with an impressive number of new ideas and new connections.

Registration is now open and an Early Bird Rate is available until May 25th.  A wide range of travel accommodations are also listed on the website to fit every budget.  The American Horticultural Society and the local host organizations (this year that includes Community Ground Works, Environmental Design Lab and The Wisconsin School Garden Network) always do the most amazing job keeping the costs as low as possible. Full details are available on the National Children and Youth Garden Symposium site.

KidsGardening will be at this year’s conference – will we see you there? Let us know in the comments!

Greenhouse Update!

Greenhouse Progress

In my last blog I wrote about starting seeds in the greenhouse at Burlington High School. This week, I wanted to provide a quick update.

The greenhouse at Burlington High School

Despite the fact that I’ve helped seed the vast majority of starts that will be transplanted into school gardens across the entire district for going on 3 years, I always get a little bit nervous about whether or not our seeds will germinate successfully. Most of my worries are focused on watering and making sure that nothing gets too dry, especially as sunny, warm days become more frequent here in Vermont. We have an sprinkler system on a timer that helps with irrigation, but it’s not perfect—often under watering plants but leaving giant puddles on the greenhouse floors—so I tend to hand water the growing flats twice a day until the seedlings are well established.

greenhouse progress

Staying on top of watering pays off. Our sprouts are looking healthy and strong. I’m particularly pleased with this year’s planting of cabbage. Usually my brassicas get really leggy, but this year the stems haven’t gotten too long and the leaves seem to be getting bigger and bigger each day. I might even try potting up the cabbages within the coming weeks, something I’ve never done before seeing as they’ve always turned out so delicate in the past.

Since our first round of seeding, we’ve done two additional plantings, including one just yesterday. This time we focused on assorted greens, tomatoes, and a second round of cabbage to allow for succession planting. And in two weeks, we’ll do our final wave of seed starting. We always save cucumbers, squash (both summer and winter), pumpkins and sunflowers for last since they grow so quickly. Before we know it, it’ll be time to bring our starts outside to harden off and transplant!

{Header image shows marigold seedlings.}

Growing the Youth Gardening Movement

growing the youth garden movement

KidsGardening is proud to support school and youth gardens across the country with the Youth Garden Grant, the nation’s first and longest running grant for youth garden programs. Launched in 1982, the grant has awarded nearly $3 million to gardens that serve kids across the country.

In 2019 alone, we had more than 800 applications from all 50 states and Washington, DC. We were amazed by all of the wonderful and diverse programs growing happier, healthier kids in the garden; and we wish we could fund them all! That’s why we could not be more grateful for the support of our sponsors who are helping us grow this program and bring the joy of gardening to more kids across the country.

Here are just a few things some of our sponsors had to say about why they support KidsGardening and the Youth Garden Grant:

“Gardener's Supply was founded in 1983 with the premise that we could be a positive force for change. We've encouraged millions of people to get their hands in the soil and grow their own food, create beautiful, earth-friendly gardens and — in the process – become backyard environmentalists and land stewards," said Gardener's Supply Good Works Manager Lena Molinari. "KidsGardening has led the youth gardening movement for more than 35 years with the goal of providing every child the opportunity to learn and grow through gardening, and we want to help them fulfill that promise.”

Ed Knapton, owner of America’s Best Flowers says, “We take great pride in growing the plants we sell and believe that gardening is a powerful learning tool for all ages. We are blessed with the opportunity to nurture a child’s outlook on the world and love to see a kid’s face light up with pure joy. We support the Youth Garden Grant because with the right tools and experiences, children can gain both the physical skills of planting and harvesting their own food, and the emotional skills of patience and self-satisfaction of a job well-done.”

"Teaching children how to get their hands dirty to grow food is a tremendous gift – especially in the times we live in - and such a positive thing for their development,” says Ken Lane, Stark Bro’s Chief Marketing Officer. “Like music and art, they learn how to create - but they also gain math, vocabulary and organizing skills, along with a sense of responsibility for living things … and not just those in the garden. We’re very interested in fostering young peoples’ interest in agriculture - perhaps one of those students may grow up to make a groundbreaking discovery, or even come to work at Stark Bro’s.”

Jon Merrill of B.B. Barns agrees, “If we don't take the time to introduce kids to how important horticulture and agriculture are, we run the risk of losing an entire generation, on both a personal and business level.”

Says Jim Gerritsen of Wood Prairie Family Farm, “My wife Megan and I have been organic farmers for over 40 years. In a pattern long familiar, we're now handing the farm down to our son, Caleb. Such generational transfers of practical gardening knowledge have been going on since the dawn of agriculture 10,000 years ago. From the moment we first heard of KidsGardening, we knew we wanted to become involved. Benefiting our planet's future by helping kids and nurturing in them a love of gardening is in total alignment with the lifelong goals and work of our family farm."

Read more about how we’re working together to grow the youth gardening movement in the latest issue of Lawn and Garden Retailer magazine!

It’s Kids Garden Month!

Kids Garden Month

April is Kids Garden Month! We're celebrating with the KidsGrow contest, and can't wait to see all the amazing things kids will share with us.

If you are interested in having the kids in your life participate, ask them to think about what grows in their garden. Creativity is encouraged! You can also ask them to think about what else might grow in their garden that isn't a plant. For example, are they having fun?  How does gardening make them feel the food they eat? Do they like to spend time with family, friends, or classmates in the garden? What do they do with the garden's harvest?

We created this contest to lift up the powerful and meaningful impact kids have on their community. Gardening can be a springboard to healthier eating, community engagement, and environmental stewardship. These intangible benefits of gardening will last longer than any zucchini or bean you might grow. 

We so look forward to seeing what's growing in your kids' gardens! You can find all the contest rules and methods of entry on our Kids Garden Month 2019 page.

Follow along on our social media accounts (below), and here on the blog, to keep up with all the fun things we're doing this month to celebrate gardening with kids.

Pictured above, a poem by a 7-year-old that reads, "In spring the garden's ready. The seeds are planted, we are watering. The wind blows. I sprout."

Emma Biggs: Working the Room with Worms


Working the Room with Worms

There was a look of surprise on the faces in the audience when I dumped out a tub of worms into my hands and started walking around the room, with my hands out to show everyone. “Do you want to touch it, or hold it?” I asked, holding the worms out to each kid I passed.

Some smiled and touched the worms, but many gave a simple shake of the head. And a few moved back in their seat with an expression on their face like it was the grossest and most disgusting thing that they had ever seen.

It was 2015, and, at the age of 9, I was giving one of my first garden presentations with my dad. It really surprised me that so many kids and adults moved away from the worms.

But the worms got everyone’s attention! And it only took one little girl to touch a worm for the rest of the kids, who had previously said no, to move closer and think about touching them. Soon, almost all of the kids had gathered around me, eager to be part of the action and be near the wiggly little worms in my hand. Some kids let out a squeal of delight when I put a worm on their hand. A few of the kids took worms over to show their parents too, who reluctantly touched them, to set a good example. A few kids were so excited they didn’t even want to let other kids take a turn. They just wanted to keep watching the worms wiggle in their hands.

Worms were what caught the attention of those kids who were at my talk about gardening. They were a surprise to the kids. And they were fun.

Some of them were excited enough that they even wanted to take the worms home! It was easy to see by their reaction. That reaction--that excitement--is what to watch for when finding fun gardening activities for a kid.

It might be worms, or it might be something else. But there is something to make gardening fun for every kid. My brother Keaton loves bugs. He turns over stones to find beetles, and moves firewood to collect slugs. He’s even had snail races. That’s what gets him excited about the garden. My brother Quinn is interested in birds. He collects bird feathers, has a few bird feeders in the garden and is interested in plants that attract birds. A project such as a sunflower house or bean teepee will be fun for some kids. For some kids, it might just be mud, and that’s OK.

In my case, one of the things that made gardening fun was unusual tomatoes and neat edible plants such as Dragon Tongue beans that have beautiful colors, cucamelons that are thumbnail sized but look like watermelons, chocolate-scented mint, and Black Nebula carrot that is a super dark purple.  I love planting something in the garden, not knowing what to expect, and getting an amazing surprise – something like the heat-free habanero peppers I grew last year. I was never able to eat a habanero before and enjoy the fruitiness. And, of course, I love fresh veggies, particularly fresh tomatoes.

Getting kids excited about gardening is about finding something that is fun. They don’t have to like everything. And they don’t have to like doing things the way adults do. I don’t like weeding, and I don’t like eggplant. And I definitely don’t like having to share the garden with my dad because I want as much space as possible to grow unusual tomatoes!

Working that room with worms and seeing the reaction it got helped me see the importance of fun for kids. I’ve worked the room with worms at many kids events since that first talk when I was 9 years old, and when I know I’ll get them interested, listening and wanting to know more about gardening.

Emma Biggs raised over 130 tomato varieties in her Toronto garden in 2018—gardening in containers, in straw bales on a driveway, in a neighbour’s yard, in wicking beds under a walnut tree, and on her garage roof. Her latest book, Gardening with Emma, helps kids find the fun in gardening (and helps adults remember how much fun gardening is!)Emma is the co-host of The Garage Gardeners Radio Show. She is also a host of kids gardening videos on the From Dirt to Dishes gardening channel on YouTube. Stop by and say hi to Emma at www.emmabiggs.ca, or on Instagram @emmabiggs_grows.


We are including Emma's fantastic book, Gardening with Emma, in our April 2019 Kids Garden Month prize packages! We're awarding weekly and grand prizes, so there are lots of chances to win. The KidsGrow contest is open April 1-30 2019!


Emma Biggs

Blog by: Emma Biggs

Meet Emma Biggs 

What do you tell other kids to get them interested in gardening?
I tell kids to make the garden fun for themselves by doing what they want to do, and following what interests. They should grow plants that attract bugs if they are like my brother Keaton. Or they could grow only pink vegetable if that makes it fun for them.

Why do you think all kids should garden?
Kids should garden because gardens don’t run out of batteries like my brothers’ remote control cars!

What do you love to grow the most?
Tomatoes, of course!! I really love growing unusual varieties of tomatoes.

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