On October 3, I had the chance to chat with the father/daughter duo Emma and Steven Biggs about Gardening with Kids on their weekly radio show Garage Gardeners. You can listen to a podcast of the show online or download it as an Apple Podcast or from Google Play. It was such a pleasure to learn more about their gardening experiences over the years and the unique bond they have formed through gardening together. It was also so very cool to hear the excitement in thirteen-year-old Emma’s voice as she talked about her garden. I am pretty sure she was born with a green thumb.
Below you will find an amazing interview with Emma by our KidsGardening Advisory Board Member James Baggett providing you with great garden ideas and tips from the heart and mind of a young gardener. Enjoy!
Meet Emma Biggs
Thirteen-year-old Emma Biggs is nothing if not passionate about gardening and eager to share her passion with other kids. Emma lives in Canada and posts garden how-to videos on her father’s blog (StevenBiggs.ca), which led to her sharing her advice in a cool new garden book for kids. Gardening with Emma (Storey Books) is a kid-to-kid guide to growing healthy food and raising the coolest, most awesome plants while making sure there’s plenty of fun. With plants that tickle and make noise, tips for how to grow a flower stand garden, and suggestions for veggies from tiny to colossal, Emma offers a range of original, practical, and entertaining advice and inspiration. She provides lots of useful know-how about soil, sowing, and caring for a garden throughout the seasons, along with ways to make play spaces among the plants. Emma’s own writing (with some help from her gardening dad, Steve) capture the authentic creativity of a kid who loves to be outdoors, digging in the dirt. KidsGardening.org caught up with her recently to find out more.
Tell us about your earliest garden memories.
One of my earliest memories of gardening is making what I called 'Cabander Stew'. It was a mixture I made of whatever I could find in the garden - carrots, chives, radishes - water, and of course - mud, all mixed together in a pail. I also remember doing a lot of watering, as it is the perfect activity to get kids gardening - all you need is a watering can, a place to fill it up, and something to water.
Top three plants that belong in a kid’s garden?
The top plant that belongs in every kid's garden (and adults) is the 'Mouse Melon", also called 'cucamelon', or 'Mexican Sour Gherkin'. My younger cousin Daphne loved them, always asking if we could go out and pick them, and when I gave some to my neighbour, her response was "Omg watermelon cucumbers!!!!!" They are easy to grow, plentiful, and a lot of fun to search for and pick. My next plant that belongs in every kid's garden is the Ground Cherry. It's such a sweet treat! You peel away the papery 'wrapper' or husk to reveal a cherry-sized sweet and tropical flavoured fruit. I can't get enough of them. Easy to grow, and totally worth it - probably my favourite fruit ever! My last kid's garden plant is beans. They are super easy to grow, productive, and can be stunning. My favourite bean is a purple and yellow striped one called "Dragon's Tongue". Beans are crunchy and delicious, easy to save seeds from, and fun and easy to plant. There are so many great things out there for kids to grow. So many great things. So choose one, or two, or 10 things you want to grow - and grow them!
What makes you happiest in the garden?
In the garden, it makes me happiest to see that my plants are growing well, to see that the squirrels aren't eating all of my tomatoes, and to harvest what I have put lots of time and effort into growing.
Favorite music to listen to in the garden?
I enjoy listening to music that is fun and jumpy, the kind of songs that get stuck in your head and make you want to dance. They make me want to garden more!
Describe your garden for us.
My garden is bigger than most peoples, but still not big enough for me. I always want more garden space, and keep stealing Dad's. My garden consists of one big veggie garden, three raised wicking beds for growing tomatoes, a container garden on my garage rooftop, and a few more in-ground beds closer to the house. That excludes my brother Keaton's melon house, my dad's front yard garden, and the three raised beds I am using in my neighbour's yard. If I keep stealing more garden though, it may all be mine in the end.
Most kids don’t like fresh tomatoes…how did you come to be such a big fan?
I can't believe how many kids (including my younger brother Quinn) don't like fresh tomatoes. To me, they're such a treat. And my brother Quinn won't even touch them. I think I just ate lots of tomatoes when I was younger and eat even more now. I can't imagine not liking tomatoes - but I can't image liking yogurt or cereal either.
Best advice anyone’s ever given you?
Lots of advice has been given to me over the years. And I try to take in all of it (there's a lot!). My Portuguese neighbour tells me to start my tomatoes a little bit earlier, and Donna Balzer advises me to not grow tomatoes beside anything in the cabbage family. I just try to take it all in, and then, someday, I might be giving other people advice.
What are some of your favorite garden apps?
I don't use technology in the garden, other than the latest backhoe, or watering can, but when I'm planning the garden, I love to listen to music. I also like to use Seedvoyage, an app that lets you sell your extra garden produce, and Instagram to see what other people are doing in their gardens, and to share what I'm doing.
The biggest mistake you’ve made in the garden?
I have made so many mistakes in the garden that I don't even know where to start. I like to try things and do experiments in the garden because, why not? That has led to lots of things, but also a busy life, and forgetting or not having enough time for watering, and that leads to dead plants.
The coolest part of working on your book?
The coolest part of working on my new book is meeting and talking to experts on gardening. Writing a book gives you permission to call anyone you want to and to talk about gardening. I've met so many great people through writing this book, and I'm excited to meet more in the future.
What’s your next project?
I always have something on my mind to do next. Whether it's selling my produce, writing a book on tomatoes, or attempting tomato breeding, I can't wait. I know it'll be fun.