Magazine article Newsweek

A Growing Experience: Spring Is Here and Children's Gardens Are in Bloom

Magazine article Newsweek

A Growing Experience: Spring Is Here and Children's Gardens Are in Bloom

Article excerpt

The first year she "helped" in the garden, Molly Hampshire unplanted more than she planted. So what if her father, John, has turned the backyard into a leafy version of Felix Unger's sock drawer: every crop in its own carefully weeded, four-foot-square plot. "I thought it was important to let her play, to pull something up to see what happens," says John Hampshire, 31, a teacher from Stratford, N.J. Fortunately, Molly, now 7, became less destructive with each spring. She and her brother, Tim, 5, just helped put in the sugar peas. Last year, when no one was looking, the kids ate almost the whole crop, pods and all. Kids sneaking vegetables--now there's a miracle. But Hampshire says gardening does more than feed the kids. It nurtures his family. "It brings us together. When I was young, we didn't have anything like this," he says. "This is special."

Gardening is America's No. 1 hobby, a $22 billion industry. And like so much else in American life, parents--especially baby boomers--are passionate about including their kids in their passion. Around the country, schools, parks and countless gardening catalogs are adding child-friendly areas and supplies. California is installing gardens in every one of the state's 8,000 public schools. In New York City, home to some of the world's finest weeds, Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew is constructing gardens in the city's most troubled districts. The theory: gardens not only can help with science and math projects; they soothe souls. …

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