Youth Garden Project – Gardeners sometimes take it for granted that everyone knows the basics of how food grows. That’s not always the case.
Especially when it comes to kids, somebody has to show them how this miracle happens or else you end up with whole generations disconnected from the soil.
That was the aim of a new Junior Gardeners Vegetable Garden that members of the Penn-Cumberland Garden Club helped set up earlier this year at the Harrisburg YWCA.
The garden turned out to be successful enough to win a Pennsylvania Horticultural Society 2019 Community Greening Award — one of just three earned in central Pennsylvania.
Youth Garden Project – Spearheaded by Francesca McNichol
Chair of Penn-Cumberland’s Junior Gardening Committee, the club, and the YWCA lined up a private grant from a generous local family to build eight raised-bed gardens next to the YW’s building above the southeast corner of Cameron and Market streets.
Seppi Garrett of Your Garden Solution installed the square-foot raised beds, while Ed Abolins of Abolins Landscaping installed the fencing that kept animal marauders at bay.
About 35 kids ages 6-12 in the YW’s after-school program planted and tended the garden. They dug the dirt, watered the plants, and harvested and ate the fresh produce.
They loved it, And not Surprisingly.
They see me and the ladies coming, and they get so excited!” says McNichol. “They run up and say, ‘What are we going to do today?
The answer to that question varied visit to visit. Besides the actual hands-on work in the gardens, the kids learned how to start plants from seeds, they learned how to can pickle, and they made bluebird boxes.
One week, a nutritionist from Giant Foods brought in less common fruits and vegetables for the kids to sample. And the year ended with the kids making two kinds of soup from their own harvest — vegetable soup and kale and sausage soup.
“The kids wanted thirds on everything,”
McNichol says of the soup day. Most of the produce throughout the season was used by the YW’s kitchen for lunches.
“They were all so good about trying things they never had before,” says McNichol. “Everybody seemed to like mint. But you’d be surprised that even little kids like arugula in their salad.”
McNichol and other Penn-Cumberland members did activities at least twice a month, and they plan to continue the garden next year.
One of the projects already in the works is learning about bees and honey.
The garden and its young gardeners will be honored in a Dec. 3 awards ceremony at the Governor’s Residence — to be hosted by First Lady Susan Corbett (an avid gardener herself).
It’s one of 67 Community Greening Awards the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society has named for 2019 in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. PHS is best known for running the Philadelphia International Flower Show.
This is the third year Penn-Cumberland has won a PHS Community Greening Award, having won one for its work with the Ames True Temper Community Garden in Hampden Twp. last year and for the landscaping around Mechanicsburg’s former train station the year before.
PHS gives Community Greening Awards to recognize beautification and greening efforts. Past honors have gone to public parks, traffic islands, train stations, churches, schoolyards, libraries, businesses and municipal tree- and garden-plantings.
Two other central-Pennsylvania gardens won 2019 greening awards.
One went to the Gettysburg Garden Club and the town’s Golden Living Center for the Memory Garden planted outside the center’s Alzheimer’s unit. That garden was planted with old-fashioned flower varieties (especially ones with sensory and tactile properties) to help Alzheimer’s residents recall pleasant memories. Local high school students helped Gettysburg Garden Club members plant it.
The other central-Pa. the honor went to a new enviro-friendly garden planted at the Strasburg Business Place in Strasburg Lancaster County. This business complex went beyond the usual sparse and low-care plantings to add a wide variety of plants with varied textures and forms, including a collection of native plants. Plans are to convert a retention basin there to a wetland garden.
More on all of the 2019 Community Greening Awards are at PHS’s web site at Here
YWCA.junior.gardeners.cabbage Harrisburg YWCA Junior Gardeners celebrate a fresh cabbage they grew in their own new award-winning vegetable garden.