Book Review: Gardening is Awesome!

Janet Wallace

Gardening is Awesome!: Projects, Advice, and Insight for Young Gardeners by STANLEY® Jr. and Chris Peterson. Quarto Publishing, 2021.

Reviewed by Janet Wallace

Gardening is Awesome! is written for kids ages 8+, but many adults could learn from the book. The authors certainly don’t ‘dumb down’ the text – in fact, this book covers more scientific concepts than most gardening books. Readers young and old can learn about basic botany and climate science, how sunlight affects plants and animals, and the roles and sources of nutrients.

The true author is Chris Peterson; the other author (STANLEY® Jr.) refers to Black and Decker’s Stanley tools, which are featured in images throughout the book. This advertorial aspect doesn’t have any other effect on the content.

The book covers vegetables, as well as ornamental and scented flowers, shrubs and trees. There are steps on how to build various types of gardens, including row vegetable gardens, raised beds, square foot vegetable gardens, tiered herb gardens (similar but simpler than herb spirals) and strawberries in 5-bucket containers. Although much of the book refers to organic growing practices (and all pest management suggestions are organic), synthetic fertilizer is mentioned. With that said, there is a much greater focus on using organic mulch and making your own compost.  

The downfall is in the descriptions of gardening projects – key information is missing. For example, in creating a flower garden, there are many details on how to measure spacing between plants, and recommendations to place the potted plants in the appropriate spots before transplanting. There is, however, no mention of how to transplant or when to do it (for example, not in full sun or on windy days, etc.).

I think many kids would use the book with an adult – the text is quite heavy for all but scientifically literate youth. But for kids who want to learn about the science of gardening, this book is amazing.

The strength of Gardening is Awesome! lies in the hands-on projects. For example, Peterson explains in clear terms how to determine soil type by simply shaking soil and water in a jar, and how to measure soil acidity using litmus paper. Young gardeners can develop basic carpentry skills by following the instructions (complete with safety tips) on how to build a square foot gardening box or an A-frame trellis.

All in all, this is a great book to help introduce kids to gardening and let them take the lead in growing their own food (and flowers).