Can A Garden Grow More Than Vegetables?

After spending a Friday afternoon gardening with my younger brother, Clark, and a bunch of kids, gardens grow more than vegetables.  Clark works for the Root Cellar in Portland, Me.  He primarily runs programs for children and teenagers whose families have recently immigrated to the United States.  Last summer he organized a team of kids to help a neighbor, Bill – a former school teacher, whose yard had been overrun with raspberries, lilacs, bamboo, and trash.  They worked all summer to clear out all the overgrowth, and dig up roots. But what to do next?

A garden.  With Bill’s blessing and encouragement Clark planned out a garden. Knowing the soil may not be very good raised beds were in order.  With the help from a grant from the City of Portland this dream became a reality. What started as a two 4 foot by 8 foot garden with a few vegetables has grown into much more.

The Root Cellar Garden

Clark choose vegetables that the kids in the neighborhood will eat.  He has radishes, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, beans, carrots, and zucchini.

Clark and I work for about two hours, on Friday, digging and preparing a new bed.

Clark working on the preparing for a new bed.

After school the kids came.  They wanted to know what they were going to do in the garden.  With excitement we walked the kids to the garden and got to work.

Clark (white t-shirt) helping kids work on a new bed.

There are two activities, so far, that are the most popular.  Believe it or not but mowing grass is one of the kids favorite activity.  They use a manual or reel lawn mower.  Everyone likes to take at least on or two swipes with it until they run into the taller grass and the mower stops.  Watering is the most fun the kids have in the garden.

Clark leading the garden watering. The mower is in the bottom right corner.
Watering a raised bed.

Watering takes a lot of instruction.  The kids either water too lightly, making quick passes or they pour heavily on tender, young plants.  Regardless, they have a lot of fun.

They are learning to take care of the plants and how to help them grow well. They are looking forward to eating what they grow. They are learning what hard work can produce.  They are learning how to help their neighbors and city.  They are learning to repair soil and relationships.  They are learning how to make their garden sustainable.

Compost bin built by the kids.
Vegetables and more are grown at the Root Cellar garden.

They are growing much more than vegetables.  Sharing the garden with the kids was a wonderful experience. I look forward to the reports of their first fruits. I know they will be really excited to see and eat their own vegetables.

If you live in the Portland, Me area and have extra compost the Root Cellar garden could use it.  The soil, although not rock, needs some new organic manner.  Also, if you have any ideas on how to keep out neighborhood cats your suggestions would be welcomed.

I will be back at the Cohocton River Rock Micro farm this week, and will get back to work. I hope you have a good week.


4 thoughts on “Can A Garden Grow More Than Vegetables?

  1. What a great post – and a wonderful program. I hope they have great weather, and the kids reap lots of yummy vegetables. These will be memories for a lifetime, and lessons that will carry them well into adulthood. I have heard about motion detector water sprayers to keep cats out, but of course, they would be an added expense.

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