By: Marianna Burrett
Beneath the towering giant mammoth sunflowers, children can be seen (and heard) discovering the perfect, ready to harvest cucumbers or the three varieties of squash that are the result of their skillful gardening practices. Another child is quick to point out that she believes a gopher ate the marigold flower she planted. Hmmm… Do we need to put the trap out again? Across the garden, another child announces that he thinks one of the watermelons may be ready for harvest. The corn tassels are buzzing with busy bees, butterflies are regularly visiting the stunning purple blooms of the butterfly bush, and the occasional hummingbird zooms in to partake of the garden’s treasures. Time seems to slow down and allows for a moment to pinch off a sprig from the herbs, and simply enjoy the fragrance. Mint appears to be a summertime favorite. There is a lot going on at the Boys and Girls Club garden.
Earlier this year this ground lay fallow, except for a few hearty strawberries and struggling grape canes. All that changed in April when garden designs were drawn up and presented to the Boys and Girls Club of Oakhurst (www.bgcoakhurst.com) by a local organization aptly named “Tend the Earth” (www.tendtheearth.net). The intention was to create an edible garden that was designed to inspire and educate children about growing edible gardens using sustainable, organic methods and practices. The Boys and Girls Club Garden Project was born. Coincidently, a previously scheduled volunteer day slated to happen one week later helped to make the construction of the garden design a reality, and ready to be planted. Once the chance of late spring frost was no longer present, Boys and Girls Club members and staff began casting organic, non GMO seeds to attract bees and song birds, planting organically grown summer annuals, tender herbs and fruit trees.
By mid-July, the fruits of the labors began to emerge. First to appear were the hearty summer squash, followed by the cucumbers. Sweet cherry tomatoes, peppers and watermelons joined the summer harvest in August. In spite of the incredible heat for days on end, the Boy and Girls Club garden continued to deliver the abundance in a variety of ways. Not only was food being produced for members and staff to enjoy, something else was happening; a bonding with this beautiful community garden seemed to have formed. Children could not wait to tell of their discoveries, or tattle on the most recent pests (aphids, deer, raccoons, etc.) that intruded on this slice of heaven! How dare they, and what do we do? It was apparent a partnership with and caring for this cultivated piece of earth mattered. Vegetables and flowers harvested by children became treasures to be cradled and loved with names bestowed upon them. I was personally introduced to a cucumber named “Muffin” as well as an overgrown zucchini called “Maxwell” that had a face etched into it. A beautiful connection with nature on the garden was evidencing itself! Well, except for that darn gopher. Hmmm… Now where is that gopher trap?
As we all grew this inspiring community garden together, we shared in the magic that was the result of many hands (big and small) coming together in community to create and amazing space for abundance, beauty and sheer joy, as well as good healthy food! One can see the aliveness of this garden from across the play yard, but there is more going on here than meets the eye! Beyond the obvious benefits of Boys and Girls Club members learning valuable life skills on the garden, the opportunity to experience a deepening relationship with nature presents itself again and again.