The seeds and starter plants have been bought…we found all our tools…and enough rain has finally fallen from the sky. We are ready for round two of community gardening!

three children stand in front of a green sign saying Garden of Eat'n while holding bunches of carrots

boys smiles in front of pumpkin plants  girl's hand holding a watermelon that's growing

Last year, we joined a community garden through a local church. We’ve had gardens before, usually in our backyard or sometimes container gardening on the patio or deck, but this was the first time we’ve been a part of a community garden.

The designated areas were mapped out in different sizes based on what gardeners requested. Every plot was free of charge to use as well as have easy access to water. Each family or solo gardener was responsible for their own plot, but we found over the course of the summer that all fellow gardeners generously help one another. It was indeed a community. Although, it was like pulling teeth to get my children to pull the weeds, they had a great summer being a part of this project. As I think about last summer, a few things come to mind:

Gardening promoted independence: In previous years, my husband or I would decide what we were planting. This time I let my children chose the seeds and plan out our garden space. This involved a lengthy trip to the local hardware store to look through ALL the seed choices and many discussions among siblings over how to organize the garden. There were a few heated moments between kids, but everyone came to an agreement. The theme for the summer was apparently vines – pumpkins, watermelon, cucumbers, and zucchini seeds were chosen. Lettuce, carrots, and one tomato plant were also included. My daughter drew up a map complete with a color-coded key. The kids were very proud to tell anyone who would listen what they had picked out for their garden.

Gardening provided sensory experiences: I have two kids who tend to be sensory seeking and two who are more sensory avoiding. Although the latter two have come a long way, excessive amounts of dirt or certain insects are still not their style. However, they loved the garden. Planting seeds, watering sprouts, and hoeing weeds offered my crew a ton of tactile input and quite a bit of heavy work activities. I joked that it was our very own 3-D sensory bin as my youngest ran around barefoot, and my oldest picked off grubs from the pumpkin plants while my middle children manned the hose and watering can. Trying new foods was a natural part of the process in growing these fruits and veggies. My kiddos were much more willing to eat meals with the textures and smells they typically avoid because…they actually grew the food. (The twins still think lettuce is absolutely weird, despite many salad dressing options and crouton choices.)

two white grub worms   two boys watering a garden

Gardening allowed us to socialize: We moved to our current town about two years ago, in the midst of the pandemic. We met our neighbors and a few people at church but had not had a chance to meet many other people until the summer. The garden gave us the time to get to know people in our community. The retired couple who tended their vegetables were always amused by my children’s antics and overall volume. The high school teacher who has a plot right next to ours is excited to have the kids in his classroom someday. The minister and her family have welcomed mine with open arms. As people shared produce and gardening tips, we slowly but surely got to know the people themselves. When my kids look back on summer 2021, I hope they will remember all the wonderful people we met.

striped cloth bag with yellow tomatoes

Gardening gave my kids a sense of accomplishment: I am a big proponent of projects that have a beginning, a middle, and an end. This community garden provided us not only a chance to watch our plants grow but to also watch others’ gardens take shape. From seeds to spouts to harvest, everything has a season. As we were pulling out the last of the cucumber plants – withered and brown – my kids commented that it was time because “everyone else’s vines are also dried up. But that’s ok because we got like a hundred cucumbers, and we gave away half of them. And now we know we like them so we can plant more next year. We did pretty good, Mom!”

boy in blue shirt stands in front of green sign saying Garden of Eat'n while holding a zucchini above his head  two boys use cucumbers as pretend telephones




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