Master Gardeners take kids on Veggie PatrolAug 5th, 2012 | Category: Community
by Cameron Deuel
Veggie Patrol started because Master Gardeners in Whatcom County were looking for a way to teach children about gardening, said Harriet Arkley, co-chair of the Veggie Patrol program. “The program encourages family participation in helping children learn the basics of gardening.”
Throughout the 22 lessons, children can learn about how to properly compost, the function of bees function in the of a garden, and how to create their own miniature garden, among other things.
Veggie Patrol, which started in 2009, runs each year from late April to the end of October, to teach children how a garden grows and see the progression of plant life. At the beginning of the program, the group works together to build the gardens.
“We like to start when the ground is bare and then, towards the end, we donate hundreds of pounds of food to Whatcom’s community food banks,” said Arkley. The garden, which includes seven raised beds, is arranged in a circle and they are dedicated to herbs, strawberries, and a “salad bowl,” including tomatoes as well as other veggies typically found in a salad. Veggie Patrol also demonstrates the possibility of “trash-can” potatoes, which is simply described in the name.
Before they begin planting, local high school students volunteer to dig holes for the seeds. “The kids in our group tend to range between four and eight years old,” explained Kathy Barrett, the program’s other co-chair. “But, for whatever reason, we have a large group of four-year-olds this year.” They then began planting crops that sprout quickly, like snap peas, to reward the work that each member has put in. Participants can view the growth of plants during the season and enjoy their harvest times.
“We grow pumpkins in time for Halloween and we give them away free of charge,” said Arkley. “But, really the schedule is arranged in a way where these kids can see progress in the short-term and long-term.”
This year’s Pumpkin Day falls on October 9, and is opened to the community. As a precautionary measure, the kids make their own scarecrows to help protect their crops. Some are pirate-themed and some are simply named “Joe” but the looming presence of a Paul Bunyan scarecrow seals the deal. The scarecrows, with name tags, are on display at Hovander Park for the duration of the summer.
Though the main objective of Veggie Patrol is to teach children how to keep a garden, the classes serve as a bonding experience for families.
“When we start planting in April, we augment the soil and plant the seeds but we really see parents and their children working together,” said Barrett.
The Master Gardener group in Whatcom County was established in 1975, through the WSU Extension. It is a volunteer program that enables participants to serve their community through horticultural education. For more information about the Veggie Patrol, call (360) 676-6736 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The program is full this season.
This article was published in the August 2012 issue of Grow Northwest magazine.