My mom has always loved to grow things. She brought us along to greenhouses where we would pick out flowers for our porch, and she would buy in whenever we begged to participate in the Arbor Day sale, even if it meant setting aside a good chunk of the yard for pine trees. And when we were young and she worked part-time, she tended a food garden. All of these were equal in my mind; none of them meant anything besides digging in the dirt and playing with the hose. When her hours pick up and the food garden dropped off, I didn’t even notice. We still ate, and we still played in the dirt. But now I realize the difference, and there is one thing that tree sales and greenhouses didn’t offer me. I literally cannot remember the last time I planted a seed.
Like a misfit toy from Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, I came in this year as a Food and Fitness volunteer who didn’t garden. I was often brought into conversations that I didn’t understand, especially in early spring. I knew I had to find a support group as an outlet for my inexperience, one that understands my confusion and is patient with me, even if they are more knowledgeable on the subject than I am.
In January, I met with the North Fayette kindergarteners to learn how to raise seeds. I chose my group well, because about 40 out of the 50 of them hadn’t planted seeds either. After saving our milk cartons from lunch, all of us started with a scoop of MiracleGro. (Teachable moment #1: MiracleGro should not be used on food.) Everybody got to sow a couple spinach seeds, and watering became a daily job that the teachers would oversee. (Teachable moment #2: If you are going to let children water plants, make sure the containers can drain THOROUGHLY. Teachable moment #3: Two seeds are not enough.) The classroom windowsills became the new home for our plants, and the kids have slowly watched them grow up since.
As you can probably guess, nothing really went according to plan: We never got to eat the vegetables we grew. We ended up sowing many extra seeds to avoid the heartbreak some of the students had when neither seed sprouted. Some students never had a plant grow, since spinach doesn’t grow underwater. But eventually we saw the bright little leaves pop up, lighting up the otherwise snow-white window area.
Their enthusiasm for these small, inedible vegetables is incredible, and they were more than ready to plant again when spring was sprung! I’m so proud to have been a part of these kids’ nature experience, and proud to have rediscovered my own passion for gardens as well.