Jeannie Le, Garland Third Grader, watering the Children's area of the Garland Community Garden - June 11, 2016
Even though the photograph above was taken only a few hours before this article was written, it is nonetheless, a timeless snapshot that could have been taken in any garden over the last hundred years. Gardens, teeming with the mysteries of life and containing countless universes of microorganisms, continue to be an irresistible attraction for children and many adults. Endless stories are played out in the garden 24/7 and most of them go unobserved—even by the most attentive of gardeners.
Yesterday Huong Le called to ask if she and her two daughters could join me to work in the garden today. Of course I said “yes”. First of all I already know Huong Le and her daughter Jeannie. Jeannie was in a botany elective class I taught at Beaver Tech here in Garland last year. Secondly, I never turn down any offers to lend a hand in our community garden.
The girls and their mother are not only brilliant and beautiful, it turns out they are natural gardeners as well. My first thought when Huong Le called yesterday was “Great, I’ll put them to work pulling weeds.” However, later in the day I had second thoughts. After all I wanted the girl’s first experience in the Garland Community Garden to be one that would yield happy memories upon later reflection.
CONTAINER GARDENING SO EASY A CHILD CAN DO IT.
I decided I would show them how easy it is to create a container garden:
1. Buy a Plastic Laundry Basket ($5.92)
2. Drill ¾ inch holes in the bottom of the basket.
3. Cut a 30-inch long piece of fencing (3’ high)
4. Put a mixture of potting soil, organic garden soil and vermiculite in about 1/3 of the pot.
5. Stick the wire fencing on top of the soil (curving the fencing against the sides of the tub.
6. Pour the rest of the soil into the pot.
7. Plant four or five potato slips (free from a friend)
9. Cover with straw mulch.
A lot of people don't know that sweet potatoes leaves are delicious. They can be eaten raw (high in vitamin B6) or they can be tossed in last minute to a stir-fry dish. They also are decorative and their lovely dark green leaves on a trellis are pretty to view. Sweet potatoes are usually planted around the end of May and then harvested between Halloween and Thanksgiving. This means you can be harvesting sweet potato leaves for five months. (NOTE OF CAUTION: Do not eat the leaves of white potatoes as they are members of the nightshade family. Only sweet potatoes.)
CONTAINER GARDENING SO EASY YOU MAY WANT TO PUT YOUR DOG TO WORK
If you are really lacking for space and have no room even for a laundry basket, and you still have aspirations to be an urban gardener, you can stretch the concept of container gardening to its limits.
1. Buy a certified organic sweet potato at your local grocery store or farmer's market.
2. Stick four toothpicks in it 2/3's of the way up from its pointed end. (Yes sweet potatoes have a round end and a pointed end.)
3. Pour water in a glass or plastic container.
4. Stick the potato in the container. (The water should cover about 2/3's of the potato.)
5. Place the potato in sunny spot in the house.
In about three weeks the potato will begin to sprout vines and leaves. Once it has achieved substantial growth you can begin clipping the leaves for your salads and stir fry dishes. The leaves taste somewhat like spinach only nuttier. Their best flavor is when the leaf is small to medium. Like all living things, the leaves get tougher with age.
Jeannie Le with two buckets of blackberries from the Garland Community Garden - June 11, 2016
It was a delightful and productive morning in the garden. In addition to building a container garden for sweet potatoes the girls also picked blackberries, watered, and planted two tomato plants, two basil plants, one lantana and numerous marigolds.
Zoe Le with sunflowers - Garland Community Garden - June 11, 2016
It is difficult to say which garden task Zoe enjoyed the most--picking flowers or watering as she enthusiastically embraced both.