Skip to main content

Book review: Gardening with Emma

This 13 year-old author will inspire your pint-size gardener

By |

Emma Biggs is on a mission to get kids growing and she has plenty of gardening experience to back her up.

After all, she’s 13.

“I’ve been gardening for longer than I can remember,” says Emma, whose passion is growing food plants. In addition to attending school and working on her ever-expanding garden, she recently published a book called Gardening with Emma: A kid-to-kid guide to growing and having fun. Emma’s dad, best-selling garden writer Steven Biggs, co-authored.

“The first step in becoming a kid gardener is to have a kid-sized place to start planting,” says Emma. She started with a corner of her dad’s garden, but quickly filled it with tomatoes and herbs. She gradually won more space from her dad, and now says she gives him a corner of her garden.

It’s important to understand that kids approach a garden differently than adults. “Adults want a garden to look nice with perfectly straight rows and no weeds,” Emma says. “Kids want a place to find bugs, worms, and birds where they can grow cool veggies or neat-looking flowers. It doesn’t have to be perfect.”

Edible plants are Emma’s main focus, with an emphasis on vegetables and herbs. “Edibles can be so beautiful,” she says. “Like when a Curly Scarlet kale plant is touched by frost or a Great White Blues tomato is hanging on the vine. It can be more beautiful than a bouquet of flowers.”

Gardening with Emma is packed with dozens of easy and fun ideas, projects, and activities to get kids in the garden and away from their screens. She says kids can plant edibles in garden beds or containers but they should get plenty of sun.

Some of Emma’s favourite garden projects featured in the book include planting a sunflower house to make a living fort, growing a pizza garden, making an easy bug vacuum, and using colours to make a rainbow or favourite-colour themed garden. She also includes practical gardening advice for kids and ways to make the garden fun stretch into autumn and winter.

Now that she’s a teenager, Emma is more excited about the upcoming growing season with plans to grow some cool new crops like bur gherkins, snake gourds, jelly melons, and Hmong Red cucumbers.

5 Emma-approved vegetables

Not sure what to plant with your kids? Try these Emma-approved, easy-to-grow vegetables.

Dragon’s tongue bean. This popular heirloom bush bean is almost too pretty to eat. The yellow and purple streaked pods are beautiful, but Emma says they also have a fantastic crunch and taste. Use them as snap or shell beans.

Great White Blues tomato. Emma loves unusual tomatoes. One year she grew 53 varieties, the next she was up to 68. In 2018, she planted 130 varieties of tomatoes. Great White Blues is a large white beefsteak tomato with purple-blue shoulders.

Cucamelons. These are trendy plants with grape-sized fruits that look like tiny watermelons, but taste like cucumbers with a twist of lime. The vining plants should be grown up a support like a trellis, arbour, or fence. Emma says her cucamelons quickly disappear from the garden as she and her brothers gobble them up. Learn more about cucamelons in this excerpt from Niki Jabbour’s book Veggie Garden Remix.

Ground cherries. This tomato cousin produces marble-sized golden fruits encased in a papery husk. “The fruits are so sweet and have a pineapple-vanilla flavor. I can’t get enough,” says Emma.

Black Nebula carrot. Why grow orange carrots when you can grow deep-purple carrots? Emma says she once added them to a soup and it turned purple.

East Coast Living