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Resources, Resources: Seedballs!

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Resources, Resources: Seedballs!

ChildGardening seedball

By Becky Rupp

Barbara Cooney’s Miss Rumphius (Puffin, 1985) is surely one of the most beautiful children’s picture books of all time. As a little girl, the main character, Alice – who grows up to be Miss Rumphius – has two ambitions: she wants to travel the world and do something to make the world more beautiful. So, after traveling from desert to jungle to mountain peak to tropical island, she comes home to live by the sea and sets out to make the world a more beautiful place.
She does so by planting lupines far and wide.
She was, in fact, what now would be called a guerilla gardener.

Guerrilla gardening is an environmental movement dedicated to the planting and cultivation of neglected or abandoned public land – wherever you find it: in parking lots, along roadways, on barren street corners. It’s a great activity for garden-loving homeschoolers.

Richard Reynolds’s On Guerrilla Gardening: A Handbook for Gardening Without Borders (Bloomsbury USA, 2008) is a 250+-page manifesto on guerrilla gardening for teens and adults. Reynolds himself became a guerilla gardener while living in a high-rise apartment in London, when he would sneak out at night to cultivate the building’s empty and neglected sidewalk planters. The book is a delightful history of the movement, from the 17th-century British Diggers, who boldly and illegally planted beans on public land, to city gardeners today, reclaiming ugly urban vacant lots.
For information, news, and suggestions, also see Reynolds’s Guerrilla Gardening blog.

Seedballs are a perfect resource for would-be guerilla gardeners. About the size of chestnuts, these little balls of humus, seeds, and clay are made for lobbing onto neglected plots that need a little bloom and greenery. Visit Seedballz for retail sources and instructions – or try your hand at making your own.

How to Make a Seedball includes assorted links, a “Seedball Story” video, and a recipe.

Reading While You’re Waiting for Your Seedball to Sprout

And then, as you wait for your seedballs to sprout, it’s a perfect time to read about fellow guerrilla gardeners.

America’s most famous guerrilla gardener is certainly the apple-tree-scattering John Chapman – nicknamed Johnny Appleseed – about whom there are numerous picture-book biographies for ages 4-8.

Among these are Reeve Lindbergh’s Johnny Appleseed (Little, Brown, 1993), which features a poetic text and charming folk-art illustrations; and Steven Kellogg’s Johnny Appleseed (HarperCollins, 1988), a tall-tale version of Johnny’s story (the cover shows Johnny lolling in a hammock with an apple and a raccoon). Both include maps so that readers can trace Johnny’s journeys across the country.

Also see Johnny Appleseed: The Story of a Legend by Will Moses (Puffin, 2004), illustrated with wonderful folk-art oil paintings.

Jane Yolen’s Johnny Appleseed: The Legend and the Truth (HarperCollins, 2008) for ages 6-9, contrasts fact and fiction in Johnny’s life story. Each page begins with a snippet of verse, and the text appears on what looks like a frayed page torn from an old book.

In Peter Brown’s The Curious Garden (Little, Brown, 2009) for ages 4-8, young Liam, who lives in a dreary city “without gardens or trees or greenery of any kind,” discovers a plot of neglected plants growing near an abandoned railroad track and sets out to nurse them back to life. Soon Liam’s curious and beautiful garden spreads across the dingy landscape and the entire city begins to bloom.

In Sarah Stewart’s The Gardener (Square Fish, 2007), set in the days of the Depression, young Lydia Grace is sent from her home in the country to the city to live with her glum Uncle Jim, a baker. There’s no place for a garden in the city – but Lydia Grace, with a pocketful of seeds and a rooftop – finds a way to make her surroundings green.

For ages 9-12, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden – originally published in 1910, and now available in many editions – is the story of orphaned Mary Lennox, sent from India to England to live with her guardian at lonely Misselthwaite Manor. Soon she discovers a locked and neglected garden – and in the process of bringing it back to life, changes her own life and that those around her.

In Rumer Godden’s An Episode of Sparrows (New York Review Children’s Collection, 2004), Lovejoy Mason is abandoned by her mother and left with a struggling restaurant owner and his wife. With the help a neighbor boy, Tip Malone, Lovejoy creates a garden in a shell of a bombed-out London church. It’s a wonderful hopeful story for ages 10 and up.

See also “Review: The Seed Catalog Curriculum” by Amanda Werner
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