Thursday, February 16, 2017


The silver lining of a February Nor’ easter is the arrival of seed catalogs—
a welcome reminder that spring is just over the horizon and it is time to plan the summer garden. 

Pursuing the pages of Johnny Seeds and High Mowing Organic Seeds catalogs with their color photographs of the hundreds of varieties of vegetable, fruits, herbs, and flowers or the intricate, detailed  ink drawings of Fedco Seeds is a delightful break from the snow and winter winds. 

This activity of selecting a garden theme and plants would bring as much joy and excitement into every classroom.
I recently came across a great theme — a garden that explores plant dyes. What a great idea for an art class!  
And certainly there are the STEM curriculum connections to nutrition, science and history.  
The plant selection could focus on those that produce primary colors such as: red onion skin and beet root for red; marigold and calendula for yellow; red cabbage and leaves and stems of tomato plants for blue. Experiment mixing the primary colors to see if you get secondary colors!  
There is no reason not to consider expanding the plant palate of the garden to include some native shrubs and trees that can also be used for dyes. The USDA Forest Service has a lot of information on the native plant dyes and their uses.

If you are ready to start planning and could use some ideas and a sample lesson plan check out . This national nonprofit organization based in Burlington, Vermont is  a leading resource for garden-based educators across the country. 

Once the garden is planned it is time to get really creative thinking about what to do with all the hand dyed natural fibers— maybe building a loom?

Don’t forget to keep a look out for pussy willows!
Check out the June 2016 Blog posting 
"A Plant For Children & Pollinators"

Sunday, June 12, 2016


In early spring my Dad would take the whole family into the woods in search of the native Pussy Willow (Salix discolor). This was a great adventure for us and we never came home empty handed. I fondly remember stroking the fuzzy catkins — soft as a kitten — lining the stems.  This memory came back to me in March at a landscape conference I attended. I was offered pussy willow branches that were on display arranged in containers to take home. I was assured by the UNH Cooperative Extension staff that they were very easy to root so I decided to give it a shot!

I put the willow branches in a maple syrup bucket filled with water by my front door. It was a lovely accent while waiting patiently to see if they would grow roots. Coincidentally, I did find potted Pussy Willows at my local supermarket which I purchased and planted, just in case I was unsuccessful with my efforts.
It was many weeks later that I noticed the buds breaking and soft green leaves emerging.  Most of the branches had grown roots. I planted the rooting branches in various locations throughout my landscape. 
Although normally found in sunny wet areas, UNH has been growing them successfully in dryer locations. I am hoping(fingers crossed) to get them established and eventually find a home for them in one of my projects. If you don’t have the resources and time to root cuttings, look for container plants at your local garden center or online. 

The Pussy Willow and Black Willow (Salix nigra) are a great addition to any landscape as they are important pollinator plants. Blooming at a time when much of the garden is still asleep, these woody plants provide nectar and/or pollen before much else is available. Nectar is the primary energy source for bees, while pollen provides the protein essential to brood rearing and the development of young bees. They are also host plants for Mourning Cloak and Viceroy Butterflies. Consider adding some willows to your landscape whether it is for children or pollinators!

Here is a book written by Margaret Wise Brown called “Pussy Willow” that would be a great companion to read along with children in early spring as the willows flower in your landscape!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016


The landscape is finally coming alive—casting a spring green haze along the
road sides with red accents of flowering Swamp Maples. The emerging growing season reminds me that children will soon come in close contact with the natural world, often in their own yards, parks or at school.  It is wise to be aware of toxic plants that are found in many planted landscapes. When I am designing landscapes for children there are toxic plants that I do not use. Some that are very common in our yards are yews, rhododendrons, narcissus  and lily of the valley.
Lily of the Valley

If you have these plants in your yard don’t be alarmed…just be aware. When I was growing up my mother always told us never to touch or eat the berries on the yews. She was aware and made us aware. I did have a scare many years ago when my 3 year old daughter handed my 9 month old son who was sitting in the strollera bunch of lily of the valley that she had picked while we were on a walk. He proceeded to put it into his mouth! Since he had no teeth I was pretty sure he had not ingested anything but I did call the poison center. I was aware that it was a poisonous plant. He is now a healthy 29 year old father of a 9 month old! 

You can download a free Poisonous Plants Brochure at:
The Northern New England Poison Center or you can get an extensive list (including house plants) from the Illinois Poison Center.

The list identifies each plant with a
“Plant Toxicity Rating Scale” from 0 to 3:

0 – These plants are nontoxic. Remember, even nontoxic leaves and berries can pose choking hazards to small children.
1 – Symptoms may occur which are mild and not life threatening, such as minor nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or skin rashes.
2 – Symptoms may occur which are moderate (hallucination, severe stomach irritation, profuse diarrhea/dehydration)
3 – Symptoms may occur which are severe and life threatening (irregular heartbeat, breathing distress, seizure, shock, paralysis or coma)

This information is helpful when assessing risks and level of concern. We — as parents, teachers and care givers, are responsible for teaching our children to be respectful not fearful of the natural world. We will do a better job if we are also more aware and informed. If you have young children, it is a good idea to have the number of your poison center on hand...just in case.

So...what about dirt?

See what the Illinois Poison Center has to say about that in there blog post:

My Child Ate…Nature!

Monday, April 4, 2016


In keeping with my February post “Reuse, Reduce, Recycle” I stumbled upon a great repurposing idea of my own this winter. I have always composted my organic scraps — sometimes just leaving them in bowl or plastic bag until I was able to make a trip to the compost bin.

With a sink full of carrot peels that needed to be composted, a just emptied plastic Cascade dishwasher detergent pod container, left sitting my kitchen counter, caught my eye. In went the carrot peels! It is clear, has a secure green flip top lid, and a compact yet ample size to hold a few days’ worth of organic debris. And if I want to store it out of sight, it fits easily under the sink. Voila!

It works!
I could not stop there. Although absolutely functional it was not very attractive. The labels were impossible to peel off so I decided to experiment with some crafting and, at the same time, thinking this could be great a handmade earth friendly gift for children to make. How could I decorate this container in a way that would be easy for them as well ? I decided to do a collage of all things that you can compost. My colleague Mindy works and crafts with children all the time and told me about Mod Podge—wonder glue and coating that is safe for children to use. With materials in hand (I used the highly water resistant outdoor formula), a little research and pictures cut out of magazines of all things compostable, I started to create an organic collage over the labels.
Finished Product!

It came out pretty cute, if I do say so myself, and most importantly, works like a charm!  I have been using it for almost a month now and the Mod Podge sealing is standing up to frequent rinsing.

If you are looking for a project that is suitable for children who can cut and paste start collecting these containers. It's a great gift for the Earth, Mom and Dad!

Don’t forget Earth Day is April 22!  It is never too early to teach children about being good stewards of planet Earth! How will you celebrate Earth Day?  

Monday, February 22, 2016


A recent visit to the
Smith Children’s Garden at the Naples Botanical Garden in Florida offered an imaginative example of repurposing items for use in the garden. 

Webster’s dictionary defines repurpose as: 
to change (something) so that it can be used for a different purpose

I consider repurposing items as another way to REUSE, REDUCE, RECYCLE.

It had never crossed my mind to use a worn purse, old rain boots or even more unusual, an old pair of “mom” jeans as a planter — much more interesting than a terracotta pot! What a great idea that adds color and whimsy to drab fences and walls while creating a learning opportunity for children. It had never crossed my mind to use a worn pocketbook, old rain boots or even more unusual, a pair of “mom” jeans as a planter — much more interesting than a terracotta pot.
Although Earth Day is months away why not consider mobilizing an effort to collect items that no longer serve their original purpose, turn them into growing vessels and create a unique living gallery!

This may seem like a small gesture, but I view this as an example and reminder for all of us to reuse, reduce and recycle. It is never too early to teach children about our responsibility to respect and care for our environment, whether it be by planting a tree, picking up litter or composting kitchen waste — for they are the future stewards of our planet.



The Naturally Rooted LLC Facebook page has launched! We are posting grants, upcoming conferences,ideas,resources,inspiration...all things related to connecting children to nature.

Monday, January 25, 2016


I look forward to the start of the new year— it's a time for reflection, new beginnings and possibilities. It's also a time to create new goals. In 2015 my goals were to:

·         Finish hiking the forty-eight 4,000’ mountains in New Hampshire
·         Start Children & Nature blog and write a post at least once a month

I am proud to announce I was able to check them both off!

It’s a toss-up as to which was my most challenging and greatest achievement, but I will never forget one moment of the glorious fall day that I hiked my final 4,000’ mountain, Mt. Tom, with a group of 19 friends and family. Some had never hiked a 4,000’ mountain and everyone who joined me through out the years on this quest was present with only two missing. The youngest hiker was 7 years old and the oldest 68. The day could not have been better!

Everything accomplished or experienced beyond those achievements was a bonus.It was a memorable year, both personally and professionally. 

So, with that in mind, I have set some goals for 2016, that focus on my love of family, nature, and my work connecting children to nature:

·     The National Park Service is celebrating its 100th Anniversary. In celebration of that significant achievement I am going to visit and explore as many National Parks as I can.
Half Dome in Yosemite National Park

Mt. Katahdin in Maine
·      Begin hiking the remaining 4,000’ mountains
     (at least one) in Maine and Vermont

·      Continue designing nature based learning and play environments for children while writing and improving this blogsharing resources and ideas that connect children and nature. Maybe branching out to include Facebook? Not making any promises on that but I do like a challenge!

Why not use the positive energy of longer days, the seed catalogs arriving in the mail and the inevitable arrival of spring and set your “achievable” goals for 2016. 

If you need a boost and some inspiration this winter check out: 

2016 In Bloom Conference:
Promising Practices in Nature Based Early Childhood Education

sponsored by Antioch University
are held in March, May & June in locations around New England.


Registration is open!

Join GetEdFunding !

GetEdFunding is a "free professional learning community (PLC) created to help educators and institutions uncover the funds they need to supplement shoestring budgets, expand innovative programs, prepare students for the increasingly complex skills they’ll need to participate in tomorrow’s workforce, and help close the equity gap in educating students from all backgrounds and circumstances. This community also hosts free webinars that are highly engaging and interactive. Online discussions provide an easy way to continue the conversation and share ideas and experiences with other educators around the country."

Thursday, December 10, 2015


You might think this is crazy to think about now, but it won’t be long before the days start getting longerthe Winter Solstice is December 21st. Though there’s still a lot of winter weather ahead, the anticipation of longer days comfortand remind meit won't be long before the seed catalogs will be arriving in the mail and the sap will be flowing!

In anticipation of the next growing season, I want to share a great seed resource for non-profits. Funds are always an issue for most, if not all, of my clients. 
Every little savings makes a difference, so I was excited when I came across a generous offer from The Chas. C Hart Seed Company of Wethersfield, CT. at a landscape industry trade show. Established in 1892, this family owned company is currently run by the fifth generation of Harts. From the very beginning, the Hart family has been involved in supporting the community. And for generations, unsold packets of seed have been sent to those in need at the end of the season. Continuing in this tradition, Nicole and Melissa Hart started an in-house department called, “Families Helping Families” Seed Donation. 

They’ll provide free packets of seed for your community garden, school project, church mission or other charitable organization. The only cost to you is shipping.
Based on availability, they’re willing to fill specific requests for seed varieties.  

Get your orders in early! 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


Outdoor gear retailer REI made news this month-they announced they will close their stores on Black Friday. The day after Thanksgiving, now referred to as Black Friday, is one of the busiest shopping days of the holiday season. Unlike other retailers who will open early, REI will be closing all 143 stores and paying their employees to do what they love most-be outside and challenging the rest of us to do the same. By shutting down on Black Friday, REI is bringing attention to their commitment to nature and the “experiences it unlocks in all of us” and reminding the rest of us of the importance of connecting to nature, family and friends.

In a letter to members, 
President and CEO Jerry Stritzke wrote:
We're a different kind of company—and while the rest of the world is fighting it out in the aisles, we’ll be spending our day a little differently. We’re choosing to opt outside, and want you to come with us

I don’t think anyone would argue that most lives, and especially those of children, have become very structured allowing very little free time outdoors. It's  time to break the cycle this November 27 and join the effort to  #optoutside with family and friends. No plans, no agenda, no structure other than finding a place outside instead of fighting the crowds and shopping. We could all use more time to experience the restorative and healing powers of nature. I hope you will decide to join the movement and opt outside. Trust me, you will be glad you did.

  Way to change the status quo REI !!!

Discover More Ways to Connect Children to Nature at:

Children & Nature Network


Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Garlic harvested from my garden
Garlic is the most reliable, useful and satisfying crop that I've planted. It is a perfect addition to any garden especially one for children. Like any spring flowering bulb, garlic is planted in the fall before the ground freezes. The children plant the garlic cloves separated from the bulbs, watch for the beautiful spring green foliage emerging from the ground in the spring and harvest the bulbs in late summer.This is a hands on learning opportunity for children to see for themselves that "like produces like and experience the full cycle of a plant". The big bonus is bringing the garlic home and using it in a recipe! Download this sample lesson plan from EAT THINK GROW.

I recently prepped my garden bed and planted three rows of garlic using bulbs from my current crop and one purchased from the farmer’s market.This is the third season that I have planted garlic and each year I have added another row. I admit,I get a little greedy for more as the fresh strong flavor is far superior to anything purchased in a store. I've also discovered easy and delicious ways of using the sculptural green scapes such as in a pesto paste. 

Keep in mind: if you're looking for garlic bulbs to plant do not use the ones from the grocery store as they are treated with a growth inhibitor. Any agricultural supply store like Blue Seal has bulbs if the farmer's market near you has closed for the season. You can find out more about planting and harvesting garlic from UNH Cooperative Extension.

Sculptural garlic scapes in June
If the ship has sailed for this endeavor, make a note for next year's to-do list. Garlic is a great addition to a garden with the added benefit of a curriculum connection. And don't forget to  look for garlic scapes at your local farmers market next summer!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


A few weeks ago I noticed some “critter” (who will remain nameless) activity, small holes poking into the sides of my potato tower. Early in the season I noticed that something was devouring the string bean, zucchini and lettuce sprouts, a problem I had never encountered. Not sure if it was a rabbit, vole or chipmunk, but there was evidence of small tunnels interspersed in the garden. This new development prompted me to tip over the tower sooner than expected. It was like a treasure hunt digging through the loam looking for the various sized and colored potatoes.

I could only image the excitement and wide-eyed wonder of children doing the same soon after returning to school. This was a first for me and there is nothing like it. As an experiment and learning experience I was not disappointed but thankful I was not feeding a family of six for the winter!  

For the most part I was pleased with my harvest. I am still picking swiss chard, tomatoes, green peppers and chinese eggplant. These vegetables have always been reliable and are ready to be harvested at the beginning of the school year, an ideal time to bring learning outside. What better place than a garden for children to learn about how plants grow,where food comes from, and healthy eating.

I am already thinking of my 2016 garden and will start by adding more compost this fall. I will also make a note in my calendar to plant my potato seedlings a bit earlier in the season, give the them more space and hope for the best. For now, I am looking forward to mid-October and planting some garlic. This is another great crop with huge rewards for the school or home garden.
Freshly Dug Garlic Bulbs


New additions!

Nature Works Everywhere Garden Grants

The Nature Works Everywhere program (presented by the Nature Conservancy) is currently accepting applications for garden grants during the 2015–16 school year. Grants will be given in the amount of $1,000–$2,000 dependent upon the needs of the project. Funds may be used to support the building, amendment, or revitalization of gardens on school campuses, with preference given to rain, pollinator, native habitat, and other natural infrastructure projects. 
Food gardens will also be funded.

Apply online by October 28, 2015

This grant is also funded by Lowe's

Captain Planet Foundation 


Eco-Tech grants are back! Sixteen (16) $2500 grants will be awarded to schools or non-profits organizations for the purpose of engaging children in inquiry-based projects in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) that use innovation,biomimicry / nature-based design, or new uses for technology to address environmental problems in their communities. 
See more at:

ECOTECH Grant Round Opens October 15, 2015 and closes March 15, 2016

Lowe's Toolbox for Education Grant

Fall Cycle Open / Closed October 16,2015

Whole Kids Foundation

Opens September 1, 2015 / Closed October 31, 2015 

Created in partnership with FoodCorps ( ,  the School Garden Grant program provides a $2,000 monetary grant to a K-12 school, or a nonprofit working in partnership with a K-12 school, to support a new or existing edible garden on school grounds.

Project Learning Tree GreenWorks!

The deadline to apply is September 30, 2015

PLT offers grants for service learning projects that improve schools or restore natural habitats.