In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
March, 2005
Regional Report

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Community and school gardens embrace a diversity of people and plants.

Gardening in Our Communities and Schools

Great things happen when a community or school garden gets started. Neighbors and passers-by exclaim joy and relief that "something's finally happening" to a blighted or underused plot of land. Order comes out of chaos. Weeds are displaced by fragrant and rich-brown, newly turned soil. Plots of tiny plants in neat rows or groupings take the place of the jumble of wild things. Colorful flowering vines and roses climb unattractive chain-link fencing.

Camaraderie
From inside the fence, even more wonderful changes are happening. Individual, isolated gardeners share their techniques and concerns and joys, learning from one another. Exhilaration from exercise and fresh air and jokes floating across garden pathways invigorate everyone's spirits. Everyday frustrations evaporate or are worked out subconsciously as the soil is tilled, amendments incorporated, pests hand-plucked, and seedlings nurtured. Harvest parties become potlucks of different cultures and cooking flavors. Excess broccoli or lettuce or zucchini is put to use in a multitude of recipes, literally from appetizer to dessert, all shared.

Lessons Learned
In school gardens, math is used in counting seeds, forming raised beds, and planting seedlings. Science is part of caterpillar-to-butterfly transformation, geography is introduced in microclimates and soil texture. Social sciences and communication are involved in communal decisions about what to plant, where, and dealing with problems. Language is involved in learning different terms for plants and insects. Ethnic interaction results from growing different ethnic crops and preparing and tasting potluck dishes. Exercise is a benefit of digging and bending and hauling. Art is explored in the scarecrows built and posters painted. Poetry and personal self-expression is explored in the journals written and observations made.

People talk, people listen. They observe what's happening in their world, and they participate in its development. They determine its future by creating its present. What better way to "grow" our current and upcoming generations of citizen gardeners!


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