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Originally published Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 3:00 PM

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Kids plant a love for gardening

6 fun ideas for gardening with children from the book "Grow Your Own for Kids."

Chicago Tribune

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Gardeners don't just happen; they're grown.

Chris Collins and Lia Leendertz are helping create the next generation of gardeners with their new book "Grow Your Own for Kids" (Mitchell Beazley, $14.99)

Over 112 pages, the authors take young people through the entire gardening process, from choosing gear to planting seeds to nurturing their crop to making a scarecrow. Many of the book's 30 projects require some help from adults — boiling freshly picked corn, for example — but children can do most of them with just a little guidance and minimal assistance.

Here are several of Collins and Leendertz's fun ideas:

• Smiley sunflowers: Kids love sunflowers. The large seeds sprout easily and grow quickly into enormous plants. The book demonstrates how to make them even showier by plucking florets from the seed head as the flower grows. Create a face, a design or even a name. They'll remain there as the plant shoots skyward.

• Pizza herb garden: It's "pizza" for two reasons. The garden is round and it's divided into slices, with each slice holding a different herb that can be used in a pizza. Collins and Leendertz show how to lay out the circle and how to separate the slices with rocks or gravel. There's also a lesson on how to make a pizza sauce.

• Taters in a sack: Potatoes grown in a sack grow quicker and are protected from critters such as slugs. Start with seed potatoes from your garden center, and a large container, such as a sack. The book shows how to plant the seed potatoes then tells how to care for them and harvest them.

• Make a bird feeder: A block of suet is melted — with adult assistance — and combined with wild bird seed. The mixture is then packed into a coconut that has been cut in half — with adult assistance. After it sets, it gets hung in a shady tree.

• Water, water everywhere: Even experienced gardeners can misjudge when and when not to water. The authors cover the when, but also the where (from beneath), as well as conservation and how to know if your plant is thirsty.

• New plants for nothing: One project shows how to grow new plants from old ones in the fall or spring by collecting seeds, rooting cuttings, dividing large plants and turning runners into plants.

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