For the past several Thursday mornings, a number of Denton County kids have been playing in the dirt. But this kind of play, in the Denton County Master Gardener’s Children’s Garden, is something their parents can get behind.
The garden, located at Fairoaks Retirement Apartments at 1950 Lattimore St., is part of an outreach program to teach sustainable gardening to the youth of Denton County.
“Gardening, horticulture are important,” said Susan Kilpatrick, a Denton County Master Gardener volunteer. “Most kids don’t know where food comes from and this gives them the basics hands-on. Hopefully they can do this at home and teach their parents.”
The garden has been at Fairoaks for three years now after relocating from the Bowling Green Park Community Gardens. On a good day, anywhere from 15 to 20 kids can be seen tending to the garden, planting, picking and watering.
Kilpatrick said most of the children in the gardening program are home-schooled.
“We used to have an after-school but not very many kids would come to that,” she recalled.
She sees changes in the children who attend the program.
“You can see their growing concern in the Earth and land stewardship … more of a respect for plants and living nature,” she said. “If they are growing it, they are more apt to eat it. They know where it’s coming from, not just something Mom and Dad are trying to get them to eat.”
On Thursday, 4-H volunteer Lauren Kilpatrick taught the children about herbs, allowing them to get up close and personal with different varieties.
“Kids all learn differently,” she said. “When they are able to touch, smell, hear, it helps them absorb and learn it more than someone talking to them or reading about it. They are so young and they hear it the first time, [but] maybe in a couple years they will hear it more and [lessons] will be reinforced.”
One thing the gardening program has accomplished is instilling a love of vegetables in the kids, including 8-year-old Logan Barnett.
“I never get to garden, and it’s really fun and enjoyable because after they are done growing, you can eat them,” she said. “We do carrots, radishes and tomatoes, beets, squash, lettuce, all sorts of stuff. Everything you can imagine at the store.”
Logan’s little brother, 6-year-old Zane, has a different view.
“I love the garden because it’s so fun you can plant stuff, but I don’t really like vegetables. But I like the peas,” he said.
Corinth resident Karen Baack said she and her five children have participated in the program the past couple of years.
“It’s increased my children’s love of the outdoors,” she said.
Baack praised the program leaders and volunteers for their work.
“They really impart their wisdom of gardening [and] fan that flame of learning and love for gardening,” she said. “It’s a great program.”
Baack said her children range in age from 6 to 16, and the program has accommodated them as they have grown. She noted that the upcoming Denton County Fruit, Vegetable, Herb and Flower Show on June 14 at the Denton County Historical Park is a way for program participants to show off their work.
“The kids can win ribbons and prizes,” she said. “It’s the grand finale of the whole experience.”
BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and via Twitter at @BjlewisDRC.