April 2010
Featured Articles

Junior Master Gardener Helpers Keep Aldridge Botanical Gardens Looking Good

Each JMGer has a raised bed they are responsible for. The kids have a chance to work in the garden at each meeting.

At Aldridge Botanical Gardens in Hoover, Junior Master Gardeners (JMG) have an important job to do! The JMG Groovy Gardeners and the Wednesday Gardeners are responsible for keeping the field trip garden looking good for the 2,600 elementary school children who come for field trips every year!

The JMG Groovy Gardeners meet on the 2nd Saturday of every month, 12 months a year, and the Wednesday Gardeners meet on Wednesdays twice a month during the school year. At the meetings, the JMG kids come to the garden to learn about soil, compost, insects and how to grow healthy vegetables, fragrant herbs and beautiful flowers. Part of every meeting is spent pulling weeds and making the garden look neat so visitors will have a safe, attractive and interesting place to learn about plants and soil.

 

Joe is standing by the row of beans that help screen the JMG garden from the nearby neighbors.

The Groovy Gardeners provide a real service for Aldridge Gardens and their reward is more than feeling good about doing something useful; when they go home after meetings, they always carry a bag of fresh picked produce, herbs and flowers!

The 18 girls and boys in the JMG Groovy Gardeners and Wednesday Gardeners range in age from seven to 14 years. Some of them have been gardening since the first JMG class five years ago and some have just joined the group. They try to keep the number of kids at 10 in each group, but it has gone as high as 17! The range of ages and experience is nice because older kids can help the younger ones, and more experienced kids can help the newer ones.

These young organic gardeners plant by the square-foot method which makes it easy to design a garden plan and share space with a friend. Four or five moms, dads or grandparents usually join the kids because they want to learn more about gardening. Some report they have built raised beds at home so the children have a place to practice what they learn at their meetings. There are also reports about how the veggies that go home are cooked. Sometimes they come back to the garden in the form of a gift to share like zucchini bread or sweet potato pie! The kids are also avid plant swappers and have a great time trading plants that "volunteer" in or around their raised beds.

   
The kids are working on the JMG activity "getting to know" where they learn a little about each other.  
   

Both JMG groups do community service as a part of every meeting. Their job is to keep the area with their raised beds looking neat and attractive because they are part of the Field Trip Garden. More than 2,600 children come through the garden every year for lessons focusing on soils, habitats, plant propagation, trees and garden math. When they walk up the path and enter this site, you can always hear little gasps of amazement and whispers of: "It’s so beautiful."

The Junior Master Gardeners have not only planted seeds to grow plants, they have "planted seeds" to grow future gardeners!

Luci Davis is the State Junior Master Gardener Coordinator. For more information on the program, phone (334) 703-7509.

Zach is planting carrot seeds using the square-foot gardening method.   Nathan and Jonathon clean a shovel like all of the other kids participating in all aspects of the garden including cleaning the tools after using them.