Cornell presents gardening basics and a dozen projects, arranged by season.
A six-page introduction establishes good reasons for gardening (producing healthy, colorful food and flowers; providing beneficial habitat for birds and insects). Short overviews begin each section, from spring through winter. Some projects, such as growing a plant from an avocado pit, often appear in children’s gardening books. Others, like making an under-sink compost bin with red worms, are more novel. Each activity includes a list of supplies to gather or purchase and instructions laid out in steps (these range in number from six to 13). Cornell encourages children without garden spaces to create container gardens, gearing several projects especially to them. While the author writes well and with expertise, some quibbles can be pegged to the cramped 48-page length. The introduction contains a section on soil testing that reduces this complex topic to three short paragraphs. The plant hardiness zone map is so reduced in size that it’s undecipherable. The text type's font is small, and some activities contain complicated steps, such as the instructions for double digging a soil plot in the “Birds and Bees Garden” activity. Many ingredient lists call for “1 bag potting soil” but never stipulate what size to buy. Pleasant photographs by Larson are supplemented with clear diagrams and stock photos.
Shortcomings aside, garden projects for preteens are always welcome, and Cornell includes excellent resources for further endeavors. (glossary, bibliography, websites, sources for supplies, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)