A sense of community is an integral root of this crop

Growing Young Gardeners: The Growing Young Gardeners Club is flourishing at Wheeler Park on Dorset Street.

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Thursday July 23, 2015

Every Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon, children are learning how to plant and maintain a vegetable garden, while at the same time gaining knowledge of growing seeds, the ABC’s of soil and composting, garden critters & bugs, invasives and weeds, and garden to table – the taste of their labor and love. A sense of community is an integral root of this crop, as children themselves bring (what they don’t sample themselves) to the Food Shelf.

Documenting their weekly journey, I have watched these Growing Young Gardeners grow. The first step a child takes to becoming a lifelong gardener may well be when he traces a small furrow in the earth with his finger, and carefully places seeds within, covering them, pushing his new knowledge into the soil along with the seeds.

Growing Young Gardeners Diary

Week 1. Getting your hands dirty and sometimes getting your face smudged is a fun part of gardening. Many different types of seeds are planted, gently covered with a warm blanket of earth, and our good wishes.

Week 2. Lessons began. Our seeds sprouted, weeds emerged. Critters harvested early, more seeds planted. Thinning the rutabaga consisted of spreading two fingers apart then thinning out plants in-between the two fingers. Most of the new plants did well over the last week, with good germination of planted seeds, and the seedlings taking well to their new home.

However, we did observe some damaged plants with partially chewed leaves and some plants with nothing left but stems (broccoli). Something or somebody has a taste for very young broccoli, kale, and corn plants. Critter footprints lead from the fence and on through some of the raised beds. Two nearby resident groundhogs quickly became prime suspects.

Meanwhile a centipede raced by the raised bed of broccoli and quickly found a hiding place under the mulch. We imagined it must be an enormous chore for the centipede and especially its cousin the millipede to tie its many shoelaces, given that it has so many legs, therefore so many feet, therefore so many, many sneakers. Perhaps they need Velcro ties!

Beans, squash, and corn are the three sister plants. “I learned that from the Indians,” one young gardener proudly proclaimed. Pole beans grow up the corn stalks. Squash grow around the base and having prickly stems and creating a dense mat, they discourage animals from eating the beans. Corn is pollinated by wind so they need to be planted close together. Then the garden students planted squash seeds in between the corn seeds. The two plants will become companion plants - best of friends.

Beets came up in bunches. The thinning process begins. We firmed up the soil around the survivor so it is not wobbly and sad about losing its neighbors. 

Week 3: Today we discovered somebody left the gate open during the past week-Oops! Some creature entered the garden, and ate the corn plants, leaving not a nib.  

We learned to pull weeds gently to be sure to get the roots. After pulling the weeds, we dumped them into the compost pile. They will eventually come back to the garden as healthy nutrient laden compost.

Week 4: Heavy rains floated some of our garden all about. Re-building of some of the beds was in order. We quickly brought out shovels and got right to work in organized fashion. Weed pulling and our journal writing concluded this session.

Week 5 Today, we talked about pollinators and blooms. We happily picked our first harvest of a few radishes and a few turnips. We delivered them to the food shelf. It was great to see where the food goes and to see people shopping there.

Our quiz question of the day; what does gardening and community have in common? Both are instilled with commonly shared challenges and an abundance of caring through sharing. 

View more Growing Young Gardeners Club photos on Bernie’s website @ http://litterwithastorytotell.blogspot.com/p/contents.html.