To our young readers:

Here's an idea for you. Since you're going to have a lot of free time this summer, why not do something that's fun and exciting and gives you rewards at the end?

Why not grow a garden?

During the next few weeks, I'll show you how to grow a garden that's just right for you. It will be a small garden. But you'll soon find out that you can grow lots of good things in just a little space. Your garden will grow mostly vegetables, but also some flowers.

I think a 4-by-4-foot plot is as big as we should go for the main garden. Or if you're small, make it 3 feet by 3 feet, so you can reach into the center easily. Really, any convenient size will do. It could be a long and skinny garden rather than a square one.

We will also build cage gardens for tall growing plants like runner beans, cucumbers, and tomatoes. I'll talk more about them later. The point is that all through the season we will think about only one small patch of the garden at a time -- mostly just one square foot at a time. This way gardening stays fun and never becomes a chore.

A friend of mine, Mel Bartholomew, thought up the idea of square-foot gardening. He even wrote a book about it called ``Square Foot Gardening'' (Rodale Press). He wrote it for grown-ups, but it works just as well in children's gardens, too.

Now, this is how the project will work. I have made several kinds of garden beds in my yard: two fat beds that are 4 feet by 4 feet; one skinny one that's 2 feet wide by 8 feet long; and three cage beds. There's even a garden-in-a-tub, for people who have only a tiny space for a garden. You can choose whichever kind suits you best.

I'm going to show you how to prepare each of these gardens, what fertilizers to use, how to plant and harvest, by telling you what I'm doing in my gardens all season long.

If you like, you can write and tell me how your gardens are doing, too. And feel free to ask questions any time. Have a fun time this summer.

All the best,

Peter Tonge P.S. I'll write to you on Tuesday to show you how to start your garden. Meanwhile, you'll need to find a few basic gardening tools:

1. A spading fork to dig over the soil at the very beginning. Once the garden is prepared, you will seldom use a spading fork again, so perhaps you could borrow this tool from your parents or a friend.

2. A spade or shovel for whenever you need to move soil around. Again, this is a tool you will need only occasionally.

3. A rake, yet another occasionally used tool, to smooth the soil after first diging over the soil.

4. A hand trowel and a hand fork. These are the most important tools for your small garden, and you will use them often.

5. A watering can, so you can water your garden during dry weather, and a plastic hand-held spray bottle for keeping tiny seeds moist until they sprout.

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