Creating Future Gardeners on MDI

Westside Summer Garden Club

(Left to Right) Westside Summer Gardening Club participants: Oliver Presa-Guzman, Delfina Presa-Guzman, and Maddy Wedge with the program’s co-lead Linda Woolley of the Bar Harbor Garden Club, cutting zinnias at their plot at the Kelley Farm Preserve. Photograph courtesy of the Bar Harbor Garden Club.

This summer the Bar Harbor Garden Club (BHGC) and the Bass Harbor Memorial Library (BHML) launched the Westside Summer Garden Club, a first-time program designed to foster a life-long interest in gardening and horticulture among youth between ages 8 and 14. The program, which began in June and ends this fall, is co-led by BHGC members Douglas Heden and Linda Wooley with support from BHML librarian Lisa Murray.

Through hands-on gardening experience during three Saturday morning sessions, the youngsters are learning about gardening from planning to harvest: preparing the soil, planting seedlings, and tending vegetables and flowers. In the weeks between the Saturday sessions, the children water and weed the garden.

In June at the Westside Summer Garden Club’s first session, the children met under a tent outside the Bass Harbor Memorial Library. They learned how to fold newspaper to make tiny, square containers for growing seedlings. In their pots, the children planted cosmos, marigold, sunflower and bean seeds. Each child was given a gardening tool kit –a flexible gardening tub filled with garden gloves, a trowel, a garden fork, pruners and a notebook. Next the group went to a large gardening plot at the Kelley Farm Preserve in Bernard where they planted tomato, pepper, lettuce, and cucumber seedlings provided by the BHGC. Then they took their newspaper pots home, put them in a sunny window to water and watch for sprouts.

In July at the Westside’s second session, the students planted their flower and bean seedlings and watered and weeded the vegetable seedlings growing in the garden. At the third session in August, the watering and weeding continued and the youngsters began taking home produce and flowers.

In early September, the program will wrap up with a Harvest Party at Kelley Farm Preserve.

Participating in the program are Delfina Presa-Guzman, 9, of Bass Harbor; Oliver Presa-Guzman, 7, of Bass Harbor; Riley Torell, 10 of Bernard; and Maddy Wedge, 12, of Southwest Harbor.  Maddy is homeschooled. The other three youngsters attend Tremont Consolidated School.

The youth club is made possible by funding from the BHGC. In addition to the gardening tool kits donated by Hammond Lumber, the club also purchased vegetable seedlings. BHGC members served as mentors.

BHGC funds also covered creating 10 new community garden plots at the Maine Coast Heritage Trust’s Kelley Farm Preserve. The 10-acre property is mostly open fields that slope down to Cousins Creek in upper Bass Harbor, but it also contained 10 existing community garden plots. The BHGC donated to MCHT eight of the 10 plots it created and used two of them for the Westside gardening program.

Asked what she has learned so far from gardening this summer, participant Riley Torell thought for a moment, then said “Probably patience is most important – watching my little newspaper pots and waiting for the sprouts to come up. Also, I’ve learned that when things don’t turn out the way you expect, you have to figure it out. Should you water the plants more or water less?”

Asked about the program Karina Guzman, mother of participants Delfina and Oliver, said that the “passion and expertise shown by BHGC members for the success of our garden is truly inspiring.

“We will continue working in the garden for the rest of the summer, and we hope to repeat the experience next year,” said Mrs. Guzman.  “Life is better in the garden!”

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