In the Garden:
Southern Coasts
March, 2004
Regional Report

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Gardens are learning environments for a community's future.

Everything I Ever Really Needed to Know ...

I learned in a garden. Patience, persistence, and the value of luck all count in growing plants. The garden is a place for lifelong learning.

Roots
It all started with a red begonia in a small pot on the porch of a nursery in north Louisiana. My first, very own plant, that begonia came home with me after the owner patiently explained to this curious eight-year-old that it needed water and sunlight, plus a little of his "secret potion" (fertilizer) to grow.

From that plant I learned how to take cuttings and root them in water, how to repot when the roots grew out the bottom, and how to know when to put the pot in more sunlight (when the flowers got pale and the stems looked sickly). I also learned to put potted plants away from the cat's perch, not to overfill the new pot, and to use a saucer under the pot. These last lessons were at the behest of my mother, the neat freak.

Shoots and Fruits
At one time, I had no more garden than a sunny fire escape outside my attic apartment. Later I had a single garden bed in the ground beneath two windows. Morning glories and zinnias grew in both spots with equal joy. Since both were inner city gardens, it was sheer luck to find the seeds in a rack at the grocery store. I learned to hang string for trellises, punch holes in unconventional containers, and turn pots weekly so plants grew evenly all around. Perfecting cultural practices teaches attention to detail and the truth of the old adage, "Necessity is the mother of invention."

Wings
Teaching kids to garden is a lesson in itself. Their natural and often uninhibited curiosity will test your smarts, but their reactions to the magic of plants is worth the exam. Start by amazing the youngest ones with a stalk of celery, freshly cut and plunged in a glass of colored water. Watch the workings of every plant through this demonstration of the color rising through the celery's vascular system. Move on to sprouting corn, lima beans, carrot tops, and a sweet potato suspended in a mason jar for real drama.

For more information on gardening with kids, visit Kidsgardening.com. Show the next generation how things grow, and you'll never forget to water your plants again!


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