Community Gardens

Community Gardens

Part of Ep. 303 Kids and Gardening

Visit the Kenosha Sprouts Youth Garden Project.  Kenosha County Extension Horticulturist Tom Kalb explains how a community garden has transformed the young people in the community.

Premiere date: Jul 31, 1995

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Girl:

Here's a garden project for rainy days. Get some clay pots, paint brushes, and non-toxic paint. Decorate the pots with your favorite flowers and pictures. You can also use sponges, and even stamps made from potatoes to create interesting patterns and designs.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Maybe you've heard the line from the song that says they paved paradise and put up a parking lot. Well, here in Kenosha, Wisconsin, they've done just the opposite. This used to be a parking lot. I'm with Kenosha County Extension Horticulturist Tom Kalb. Tom, tell me a little bit about this wonderful project you've got going here.

 

Tom Kalb:

Yeah, Shelley, it's my pleasure. And it is wonderful. This is our Kenosha Sprouts Youth Garden Project. It started a few years ago when our museum educator Nancy Matthews, she realized that all these kids were hanging out at the museum, kind of getting in trouble. So she called me up and said, let's do something in a garden situation. It just worked out beautifully. Kids love to garden. They like to play in the dirt. They like to water. And gardening is really an exciting thing. You plant seeds one week, the next week, wow, things are happening, things are popping up. Before you know it, the flowers are coming. Then the harvest comes. Then they race around harvesting the vegetables that they grew, so it's really a neat thing.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Where do you get the plants for this project?

 

Tom Kalb:

We get the plants from a wide variety of sources. Our local nurseries and garden centers support us. We have some private donations. Also, seed companies provide a little bit for us. Even hardware stores help us with the tools. It's a community effort in the fullest sense.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Tell me about some of the plants that you've got growing here.

 

Tom Kalb:

We've got all kinds of flowers and vegetables. You've got to have some flowers, because we want this to look beautiful for the neighborhood. We want the whole neighborhood to be proud of it. Then we've got vegetables. And I have found that different types of vegetables have worked over the last few years. Things that ripen slowly are going to be hard, because they'll be taken from the garden before they're ripe. I've never seen a red, ripe tomoto this big in three years. Ever. But you will see cherry tomatoes make it in time, or yellow pear tomatoes. They'll work. Something like cabbage, forget it, it takes too long for that head to develop. But broccoli, something that keeps shooting up new things, that'll work. Beans, there are always new beans on the vine. There's always new cucumbers. Zucchini, all of that will work. Be sneaky, put in some root vegetables like beets and carrots. They'll be okay and they'll work.

 

Shelley Ryan:

That's partially because you want to teach these kids, too. It's not just to harvest, you want to have produce around for them to learn from.

 

Tom Kalb:

That's right, we want this to be a learning experience. The best way to learn about gardening is hands-on, right in the garden with your own hands and getting in there. So, the kids, we want to bring that garden to the neighborhood. That's the first thing. We don't want to take a bus to a garden. We want to be right there in their backyard. The second thing, we want those kids to want to run to the garden, so we have fun. We've got to have fun. That's the highest priority. Then once we get them in the garden, then the learning experiences begin. They don't even know they're learning. But we're putting in the seeds and the transplants. They're weeding. They're watering. They're harvesting. They're learning, hands-on. And it just works. (to children) That's the way. That's a good shovel full there. There you go, now you're talking. Look at that little bug we got there. Look at that centipede crawling all over the place. And it doesn't do you any harm. It's just part of nature. He likes being in here where it's cool and moist. Cook, huh? (to Shelley) They're weeding. And of course, kids hate weeds. We always say, we're only going to let you weed for about five or ten minutes, like it's a privilege.

 

Shelley Ryan:

How do you get them motivated? How do you interact with them?

 

Tom Kalb:

You know what? The kids are on the street. They are looking for things to do. They just hang out in the streets. All you've got to do is just drive that rusty old pick up truck of mine down, and they want to come, because I want to get to know them. They can sense that I care about them, and that I'm excited to see them. They're looking for attention. Sometimes they have some family difficulties, too, so they're always looking for some more interaction. They're looking for things to do. That's what it's all about. No wonder they get in trouble! They just hang out in the streets and they have nothing to do, nothing productive to do. So they welcome something to do, and I'm here to help them. So are the neighbors. We've got some wonderful neighbors here, helping us. The community center helps us. The parents help us too. We all work together on this. I don't want to make a big deal about this, but we've got some like rival youth gangs, right here in the garden, right now. These kids are learning a little bit about each other, and we're breaking down those barriers.

 

Shelley Ryan:

So it's community in every sense, like you said.

 

Tom Kalb:

In every sense. That includes even in the harvesting, sometimes. What we've seen is that not only the kids harvest, but some of the neighbors harvest, too. We had once a homeless person come in here, and he harvested all the cucumbers, into a big bag. He dropped them right off to the food pantry.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Wonderful.

 

Tom Kalb:

The food pantry is going, what's going on, I know you don't have a garden. Well, no, it's from my garden down the street. So, it's kind of neat that he adopted our community garden as his garden.

 

Shelley Ryan:

You plant some permanent things in this garden, too.

 

Tom Kalb:

Yeah, we planted a tree this year. I don't know how long we have this land, but the kids wanted a fruit tree. It's the kids' garden. (to children) Right. Okay, got it? Be careful. It's starting to fall apart. Do you see the roots. Remember, we loosen the roots, right? You guys want to loosen them up? They suck up what? Water and the nutrients, right. Okay, Brian, are you going to help? You're strong. Okay, very good. One, two, three. There you go. Okay, be careful. You guys know what to do next, right? (to Shelley) So, we get them involved in the whole process, including the designing. They take ownership in the garden. That's one of the keys to success, is give the kids ownership of the garden. We've had expriences in two of the gardens where the first plants we put in, they're pulled out, by the neighbor! By the neighbor's kids, because they kind of feel threatened, maybe, about the new happening here. But we give them some ownership in the garden. We get them involved and give them a responsibility. And before you know it, they take a leadership role in the garden. They're out there watering. These kids learn. They know, 100 degrees, the plants are wilting, they know that they've got to water that garden. And some of these kids do it on their own. Or like if I'm dumb and I leave some hoes out there in the field, the neighbor's kids now take a leadership role and take responsiblity. They collect the hoes and give them to me next week.

 

Shelley Ryan:

This is a wonderful project.

 

Tom Kalb:

Yeah.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Thank you, Tom.

 

Tom Kalb:

You're welcome.

 

Shelley Ryan:

I think this shows that gardening isn't just good for adults, and it isn't just good for kids. It's good for the entire community.

EPISODE SEGMENTS+

Funding for The Wisconsin Gardener is provided, in part, by The Wisconsin Master Gardener Association.