How Does Your Garden Grow?

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Dig into the Hobby @ your library.
by Rebecca Walden

It doesn’t matter if you’ve achieved master gardener status, or if you’ve just killed your tenth African violet. Gardening is a forgiving hobby. And happily, it’s one that most of us, with a little bit of know-how and a willingness to get our hands dirty, can easily learn.

Regardless of skill level, gardening is also about perpetual improvement. The library offers a wide spectrum of informative, engaging programs in this regard. Best of all, these learning opportunities are tailored to address the unique aspects of gardening in each library’s particular region.

Green thumbs, unite!

At Vestavia Hills Library in the Forest, attendees whose skill levels range from novice to master gardener, gather monthly for their Gardening 101 sessions, led by a representative from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Topics vary widely, from worm composting to rain barrel construction. The Library also regularly hosts herb and plant swaps.

Adult Services Librarian Leslie West said group members are currently busy making plans to enhance the grounds surrounding the newly-built Library. “Some of the green projects they are considering include getting placards to identify native plants around the building and along nature trails, planting an herb garden, and even starting a composting site.”

A lot of gardening is trial and error, and library programs can impart both information and supplies for those who want to try something new. Saratoga Springs Public Library offers an impressive series of gardening programs, led by local gardening guru Kerry Mendez of “Perennially Yours.” Reference librarian Cathy Stevens notes that it is common practice for attendees to show up with samples of soil or diseased plants from their own yards, using these programs as an opportunity to address some of their most vexing gardening problems. And at Aurora Public Library, which routinely partners with staff from local nurseries, the local Extension Service, even vendors from the Chicago Flower Show, patrons who have attended garden-themed programs have left with everything from green bell pepper seedlings to daylilies.  

Root Yourself in a Healthy Habit

Thanks to the creative vision of Howard County Library’s CEO, Valerie J. Gross, who originally conceived the idea for their soon to open Enchanted Garden on the back of a napkin at a fundraising dinner, Howard County residents will soon have access to a true, hands-on community garden.

Development Specialist Rita Hamlet emphasizes that the Garden will be a centerpiece for the health and nutrition portion of Howard County Library's education mission.

“The Enchanted Garden provides opportunities for growing healthy habits for the community through innovative educational classes on the environment, science, sustainability, health and nutrition,” she says. “One area of focus will be on educating children and families about how eating healthy foods, understanding where food comes from, and participating in gardening activities can form healthy habits and help prevent childhood obesity.”

“Our Healthy Kids classes can now include outside activities. The garden will include particular types of habitats, such as a butterfly or bird garden. Another concept for the garden will be to focus on a food product, as in a Pizza Garden, a Stone Soup Garden, or a Stir Fry Garden.”

“A true community garden, the design will be available for community gardeners, school groups, and families, and for demonstration purposes to augment Library classes. A few of these raised beds will be designed to appeal particularly to people with mobility concerns or special needs. Pathway and gathering area surfaces throughout the garden will utilize ADA compliant materials so that all customers can enjoy the garden. Themed planting areas will educate about sustainability concepts (rain gardens, bio swales, rain barrels and green roofs, use of native plants, composting, etc.), encourage whimsical exploration through ideas such as a sensory garden with fragrant plants, interesting textures, shapes, and stimulating visual colors and features.”

Spark an interest in science

At Mansfield Free Public Library, little ones are discovering the simple pleasures of cultivating an outdoor oasis through the Library’s Little Sprouts program. On the second and fourth Tuesday of each month, children and their parents pile into the Library to engage in playful outdoor and nature-themed programs. Much more than story time and a snack, Little Sprouts provides hands-on exposure to the wonderful world of gardening. An evening learning about ladybugs, for example, would not be complete without each child making their own pair of ladybug wings.

“The response has been great,” says Library Director Mary Sirgey. “Many of these parents are working young parents who can't normally get their children to story time. Through Little Sprouts, they are getting their children, as well as themselves, using the library. They are realizing we have a fantastic children’s area with puzzles, games, puppets, board books and picture books. They are seeing that we have computers, books and DVDs for the whole family. They are seeing that the library is a wonderful place, no longer a place you have to be quiet, no longer a place where children cannot make noise. The library is a wonderful place for all!”

Seed Sharing @ your library

Seed sharing programs at public libraries are increasingly popular.  Seed libraries allow patrons to “check out” carefully organized vegetable seeds to plant on their own. After harvesting the crops, they save and return seeds to be used in the next growing season.

As reported in American Libraries, some public libraries that house seed-lending programs include Richmond Public Library and San Mateo Public Library in California, the Pima County Public Library in Arizona, and the Fairfield Woods branch of Fairfield (Conn.) Public Library.




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Gardening with children by Monika Hannemann, Sam Tomasello, Sigrun Wolffe Saphire

Creative vegetable gardening
by Joy Larkcom




Rebecca Waldenrrebecca walden

Rebecca Walden is a Birmingham, Ala.-based freelance writer. She has more than a decade of experience in information services, during which time she has worked with all types of libraries throughout the United States.


Garden photo by Christian Bauer

Creative Commons License


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