The summer garden can be hot, scratchy, and very dry, but visiting the summer garden is like going on a special scavenger hunt! Whether you are peeking under big green leaves to spy a baby vegetable with the flower still attached, or finding an award winning gigantic one, the summer garden is ripe with discovery. The drowsy buzzing of pollinators at work, a slight breeze to make your inspection cooler (if you are lucky), and the scent of heat ripened fresh produce all provide a multi-sensory backdrop to an exploration into nature’s gifts. Sandwiched in between the spring seed sowing and sprouting fun, and before the fall harvest, the summer garden is a perfect introduction to food literacy.
“Food literacy includes all forms of food education, such as community and school gardens, cooking classes, and taste education. Growing food, even at the household level, is particularly effective in introducing people to a healthier, holistic approach to food, as it links people to their geographic place and can facilitate cultural and social bonds. Additionally, food literacy includes education on the environment, and how food production and consumption should be environmentally conscious acts that steward people and place.” (Santa Cruz, 2015)
There are so many great books on gardening with kids, and the Nature Booklist helps pair literary and nonfiction books together with activities to promote nature and environment learning. Weslandia by Paul Fleishman and Roots, Shoots, Buckets, and Boots: Gardening Together With Children are two such books and their listing can be found here. With its delicious bounty, the summer garden can expand the scope of understanding how food affects culture as well as expand the palette and appreciation of different foods and flavors. What child can resist trying a vegetable that they or their family seeded, grew, and freshly picked? Seedfolks, also by Paul Fleishman and Gardening Lab for Kids: 52 Fun Experiments to Learn, Grow, Harvest, Make, Play, and Enjoy Your Garden, found here on the booklist, is another great pairing of books for gardening fun and ideas.
The glorious colors of the summer garden can spark the artistic imagination and provide practice for sketching, drawing or photography. Up close observations in the summer garden showcase the amazing patterns and textures displayed in nature. Summertime in the garden can also include tall stalks of the stunning sunflowers which produce seeds for birds and a multitude of other gloriously bright blossoms that can take the heat. Indeed, besides the nutritious and crunchy sound of a fresh bowl of salad, the summer garden is steeped in the magic of the natural world. The lazy days of summer provide opportunity for sensory engagements in a variety of settings, and the summer garden has its own niche in providing not only food, but beauty, inspiration and literacy.
By: Anne-Marie Parrish
Librarian to be
Santa Cruz, S. (2015). The UCCS greenhouse and farm: Reconnecting people, place, and food
Dr. Arnone is a proponent of libraries helping to serve their communities with programming about their local environments. She has taught "Environmental Programming with Libraries" and "Literacy, Inquiry and Nature for Libraries" at Syracuse University's School of Information Studies. She is a certified environmental educator in the state of North Carolina.