Iola children cultivate vegetables, flowers
By Holly Neumann
The Iola Children’s Garden provides area youth the opportunity to learn about gardening in a fun filled environment.
“The kids just love coming here,” said Dorothy Shaver, who is one of the coordinators of the garden. “Not only do they learn about gardening, but we also have other fun activities as well.”
The garden consists of 36 raised beds, which the children can plant vegetables and flowers in.
“At the beginning of the season, we give the kids a list of veggies and flowers that they can choose to plant,” said Shaver. “From that list, we ask them to pick at least one vegetable that they don’t like and one that they have never tasted.”
The children are encouraged to plant 75 percent veggies and 25 percent flowers.
Shaver explained that they practice using square foot gardening.
“With square foot gardening, each bed is divided into 16 squares,” she said. “The children then make a chart of what they planted and where. That way they know exactly where things are and it keeps them organized.”
According to Shaver, the children enjoy what they are doing.
“The kids get such pleasure when they pick that first radish or carrot,” she said. “It is so nice to see the excitement on their faces and also encourages them to try new things. When the harvest is something that they grew themselves, it makes it more fun for them to eat.”
Linda Riley, who comes to garden with her six year old granddaughter Mary, agrees.
“Mary will eat anything she planted,” said Linda. “She just loves coming here.”
“I like everything about coming here,” added Mary. “I planted flowers and carrots and broccoli.”
Madisen Schroeder, 10, comes to the garden with her sisters Dakota and Brooklyn, and her great-grandfather Tim McCarville.
“I have been gardening for three years,” said Madisen. “I like coming here so I can have my own vegetables to eat and it is so much fun.”
“Somehow I am always the one that gets stuck weeding,” laughed McCarville. “But I always enjoy the time with my granddaughters.”
Tammy Burgdorf, who is new to the community, finds that it is a great way to get involved.
“It’s not only a great experience for my kids, but also a great way to meet people from Iola,” she said.
Along with gardening, the children also receive classroom instruction on a variety of topics ranging from learning the difference between annuals and perennials, how to make salsa, good and bad bugs, and more.
“We have made sun catchers, had a frog jumping contest and even learned how to recycle vegetables,” said Shaver. “The kids are definitely learning a lot while also having some fun.”
As the gardening season comes to an end, Shaver reads the children the story Stone Soup.
“The kids then head back to their own gardens to see what they can contribute for us to make our own stone soup,” she said. “I have volunteers here to clean and sauté their vegetables and together we make soup.”
Then as the Olympic music plays, each child stands up on a pedestal to receive their gold medal in gardening.
“The kids all have worked very hard throughout the summer,” said Shaver. “Giving them a medal for all they have done is wonderful, but learning to garden at their young ages is success.”