Children’s Garden at the Macon County Library
(This article originally appeared in the June newsletter of the Macon County Master Gardener Association. Written by Sherry Miller)
One activity I particularly enjoyed as a Texas Master Gardener before moving here was the Junior Master Gardener (JMG) Program, so I was excited a few months ago when a friend at the library, Maggie Kennedy, asked me about children’s garden activities for the summer. This is an great activity for connecting children with how food grows and helping them appreciate fresh vegetables.
Every year the Library’s Summer Reading Program (SRP) has a specific theme established by the Collaborative Summer Library Program. Since this year’s theme is Dig Into Reading, the librarians decided to include some gardening activities. Displays for observation will include sprouted lima beans in clear cups at various stages, carrots, radishes and onions in a donated see-through acrylic Root Vue Farm, and an activity comparing seed shapes and sizes. Projects to make and take include terrariums, potting seeds and seedlings, and “chia people” of grass seed and hosiery. They will also learn about growing in buckets and bio-degradable bags, and will use recycled items in many of the hands-on projects. A program will be presented by Donn and Sandi Erickson on vermiculture, and the children will make small worm farms to take home. And of course there will be frequent tastings of what is produced! A good resource then is the Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate initiative, which replaces the old Food Pyramid.
With generous support from Lowe’s of Franklin and Spring Valley Nursery, and seeds and plants donated by library staff and volunteers, we built
a raised bed behind the Library just outside the children’s program room. Since the SRP runs from June 3 to July 23, we planted a variety of vegetables, herbs and flowers on May 3 so there would be a good assortment of things for the children to see and sample. The photo shows that we pushed the season on a few things and crowded the rows more than we normally would, but for this specific project, it serves our purpose. About half the bed was left bare for the children themselves to plant in the first week of SRP.
When SRP has finished in July, the children will continue to visit the garden to see what is blooming, ripening, and what new things the library staff is planting. Recently, visitors to the garden were so impressed with the project that they made a generous donation so the garden can continue through the Fall and be expanded. Maggie Kennedy is leading this project, but anyone in the Children’s Department will be happy to talk about it; you can also walk around to the back of the building from the parking lot to access the area.
A search in the on-line catalog of “Gardening and children” brings up some amazing titles for projects and activities to do with kids of all ages, from simple activities indoors to bigger, all-season outdoor projects for a group. In the excellent Youth Gardening Book by Lynn Ocone, I noticed a paragraph about how “children today” are not connected to the sources of their food, and that gardening activities are more important than ever; I was then stunned to notice that the copyright date was 1983—yes, 1983! That means one more full generation! Then I recalled that in those other JMG programs, the young parents were often just as engaged and excited as the children.
For a quick overview of the gardening section, browse the aisle in Non-fiction 630-635 in both the children’s and adult areas. I’m always amazed that there is an entire book dedicated to “small hostas,” for instance: The book of little hostas : 200 small, very small, and mini varieties by Kathy Guest Shadrack.
I love being able to study a book before deciding to purchase a copy; a library book I am considering is What’s Wrong with my Vegetable Garden? Organic solutions from artichokes to zucchini by David Deardorff. I especially like the sections describing problems by family of vegetables. I’ll at least write down the title and call number in my garden binder, if I don’t get my own copy!
A few of the mystery and fiction authors who weave garden themes through their novels are Susan Wittig Albert, Rosemary Harris, Katie Fforde and Ann Ripley. For me, reading their books in the cold, wet winter months is a bit like studying seed catalogs!
We look forward to no doubt some unexpected outcomes—one of the joys of mixing two unpredictable elements—children and gardening!