In the Garden:
Since 1992 the Special Gardens for Special People at a Franciscan retreat center has provided camaraderie, a feeling of accomplishment, and wonderful fresh vegetables for both the participants and the Sunnyside Master Gardeners who organize it.
Something there is about gardening that invites sharing. Of course, there are always exceptions, but for the most part gardeners are a generous lot, more than willing to share time, knowledge, and plants.
Volumes could be written on the psychology of why this is, but a brief amateur analysis is that there is something basic, something intrinsic to human nature in tending and nurturing the soil and plants, in being a part of nature and natural cycles, and in sharing that experience.
Or maybe, it's just that anyone who gardens tends to feel so passionate about it that they can't wait to "show-and-tell." Whatever the reasons, the greatest deterrent is most likely that life is complicated and busy. The question, then, is how to find time and outlet for this natural need.
One way people have shared their passion for gardening is through community gardening. The classic type involves taking an underutilized space in an impoverished urban area to produce fresh vegetables, often as a way to create a sense of community and to fight crime. Today, the concept has a much broader definition. In my own local area, which is mainly small city and suburbia, there are a few traditional community gardens, but also a wide array of community gardens involving a diversity of people and causes. I think they give an excellent insight into how far-reaching this type of gardening can be, as well as ideas of ways to share your love of gardening.
Find a Master Gardener
In my humble opinion, the Master Gardener program is one of the greatest concepts that the cooperative extension service ever devised, especially since it includes a requirement for community service. Some of the past, present, and future projects for the Master Gardeners in my area include a vegetable garden for special-needs children and adults; an herb garden providing a quiet place for reflection at a hospital; a butterfly garden for the Junior Master Gardener program at an Optimist Club; a garden for Boy Scouts at another Optimist Club; a garden at a children's home; a native plant garden at a natural history museum; educational gardens at a high school; a vegetable and flower garden at an adult shelter; and a flower garden at a church.
Good deeds are not limited to Master Gardeners, however. The local unit of The Herb Society of America maintains a sensory garden at a school for the blind, a garden of early American flowers and herbs at a state park, another native plant garden at the natural history museum, and others.
If a person is interested in learning about how to start a community garden or wants to become involved with one, then finding a Master Gardener group or another plant society is a great place to start. Volunteers are always welcome, especially if you join the group.
One on One
April is NGA's annual initiative, National Garden Month, and the theme is "Give a Garden -- Add Beauty to Life." Giving a garden may seem small and insignificant, but it can have a far-reaching effect. No one exemplified this better than my mother. You couldn't visit her garden without going home with some "starts." Dozens of people have told me how she initiated their own love of gardening, about how much of their gardens came from her, and about how they have passed on that love and those plants to other people.
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