Best Bay Area Gardening Stores for Kids

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Nursery School

Common Ground Garden Center

“If you have a yard or even just a porch box or a pot in a sunny window, grow something to eat in it.”—Wendell Berry

Now that Michelle Obama has done her part in boosting the image of victory gardening to the whole country, the Bay Area’s love affair with the outdoors blooms anew through our little sprouts. Not that we needed any nudging, with our embarrassment of riches in gardening resources and climate. In fact, one could even say that we plant seeds that influence the rest of the world’s gardeners.

To wit, the kid’s center at the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show focused this year on edible education: hands-on learning through growing food. In the center of show, the children’s education garden demonstrated each stage of gardening from compost to harvest.

We’ve scoured for some gems in Bay Area gardening shops to jump onto this merry red wagon, and culled the list based on the following criteria: 1. Shops that host a terrific inventory with organic-minded practices; 2. Shops that gracefully host kids. After all, seeing the tykes in tow as future environmental stewards is just good P.R. (planet relations.)

Alden Lane Nursery in Livermore hosts Kidz Club, a Summer Program for kids 5-10 years old and meets every other Wednesday afternoon (beginning June 19th) until the end of August. Classes on raising your own flock of chickens are offered. “We talk about the good reasons for having your own flock, such as how the chickens eat bugs.” Kids under twelve are free.  The next class is offered May 23. Pre-register with Alden Lane cashiers by calling (925) 447-0280. Alden Lane, 981 Alden Lane, Livermore.

Classes on growing great tomatoes, starting a summer garden, and beekeeping are offered at Common Ground in Palto Alto, an organic garden supply and education center. With the motto”Creating Abundance in Community,” their garden center’s vision is to promote edible gardens in neighborhoods throughout the mid-Peninsula. Private gardening classes and tours of the Demonstration Garden (for inspiration on how to get started, or improve techniques in your own neighborhood) are available for small groups. E-mail for details. Common Ground, 559 College Ave., Palo Alto.

Your brood will love bellying up to the Ritual counter at San Francisco’s Flora Grubb Gardens for cocoa, while you grab a coffee. Once you’re all fueled up, take in a gardening store with the look and feel of an exotic botanical museum.  Stock up on seed packets, decorative pots, the t-shirts and eye-catching trinkets for the mantle.  To make it clear that kids are welcome, Flora Grubb, also a mom, offers workshops organized by Little Lane Studios. Next up in April, kids will make rocks into bugs and learn about common garden bugs. Then in May, check out a kids’ workshop on painting a pot into a beautiful Mother’s Day gift. Flora Grubb Gardens, 1634 Jerrold Ave., San Francisco.

Yerba Buena Gardens in Woodside off of Skyline Blvd. is home to a collection of garden art: metalwork, wood and stone sculpture, stained glass and tile work.  Owner Kathy scours the little-traveled back roads throughout Northern California, and reaches many of these artisans in their homes and studios.  For children age 12 and up, Yerba Buena Gardens hosts traditional tea service in its 1905 Victorian Farmhouse at noon and a vegetarian menu is available with advance notice. Call (650) 851-1668 for reservations. Yerba Buena Gardens, 19500 Skyline Blvd., Woodside.

Marin County boasts family-owned Sunnyside Nursery with two stores, one in San Anselmo the other in Fairfax (called Growing Grounds). Renowned for its super sweet, kid-friendly staff. Sunnyside Nursery, 130 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo. 3000 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Fairfax.

TIP: According to Pamela Peirce, author of The Golden Gate Gardening Book (the ‘go to’ book for Bay Area green thumbs), “Check out Appendix VII of the new Golden Gate Gardening Third Edition, under Working and Model Farms, page 411. A number of them are really good places to take kids and have programs for them. There are also some 4H programs and a Junior Master Gardener Program that parents can organize—see the listing at the end of the University of California Cooperative Extension, County  Offices list on page 411″

—Jennie Rose

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