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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.