What’s the best way to interest kids in gardening? Give them the tools to do it, space to plant a garden in their own yard, and some friendly family encouragement along the way.
Essentially, those are the elements behind the delightful Junior Gardeners program being offered again this year by the Kingsville Horticultural Society. The program is open to local boys and girls between the ages of 4 and 14. We work in partnership with the four elementary schools in Kingsville, who post registration forms on their electronic bulletin boards.
For the princely cost of a toonie, Junior Gardeners receive little packets of seeds, a live plant, and an illustrated instruction booklet that offers guidance on planting and maintaining their garden plot.
Ideally the little gardens should be situated in the kids’ own backyard where they have daily access to tend the plants and watch as their crop grows. We recommend a plot about 4 X 4 feet — big enough to grow a nice variety of plants, yet small enough to be manageable for even the youngest gardener.
When we delivered the gardening kits to last year’s participants, it was like Christmas morning. They eagerly ripped into their bags of gardening goodies with the contents flying in every direction.
When they register, parents indicate whether they would like to have their child’s garden judged or not. In late July, we follow up with those who said yes to confirm that they would still like to have their garden judged.
We found there were a few dropouts last year, but for good reasons — the plants died when we went to the cottage for a week, the dog dug up the garden, the Tomato Elf has not come by yet to paint the tomatoes red. Who could argue with any of that?
For those who did stay in the competition, in early August teams of our judges fanned out across the Town of Kingsville to visit the gardens and chat with the gardeners about their observations and experiences.
Our only stipulation is that both the gardener and a parent or guardian must be present when our judges come to visit. The gardeners’ efforts are judged by age category — 4 and 5 year olds, 6 and 7 year olds, etc.
The top three scores earned in each age category are rewarded with an Olympic style medal on a lanyard! And all the Junior Gardeners are given a Certificate of Participation they can proudly display.
The 2020 Junior Gardener program was a roaring success, as you can see from the photos. We can’t wait to visit this year’s gardens!
If you know of a local youngster who would be interested in taking part in this year’s Junior Gardener program, email me at email@example.com to request a registration form. The deadline for registrations is March 26th.