Gardens Help Kids Grow

Flowers and Vegetables are not the only things that grow in my garden. My 13-year-old son, Joshua Greene, grows there, too.

I am a University of Illinois Extension master gardener. (The master gardener program is a volunteer program in which we help residents of the county with gardening questions and projects.) My son wanted to become a master gardener, too, so I started a junior master gardener (JMG) group in our area.

In 2007, after completing all the requirements (44 group activities, 44 individual activities, and eight community service or leadership projects), Joshua received his JMG certificate. For one of his projects, he and his fellow JMG group members designed and planted a flower garden on the courthouse lawn.

Two years later, Joshua received the National Junior Master Gardener Youth Excellence Award. Among his accomplishments: he assisted me in teaching community classes for all ages about vermicomposting and container gardening, and he did experiments using his own vermicompost. While serving as a bee spotter for the University of Illinois, he helped the university collect data on pollinators.

Joshua's favorite project was his square-foot garden. His father helped him build four 4-foot by 4-foot frames. We grew all the vegetables our family needed and had extra to share. He is now the youngest certified square-foot garden teacher, and he volunteers his time teaching the square-foot garden method created by Mel Bartholomew.

Joshuas JMG group also designed a Spooky Garden Walk for preschool children. It was full of laughing ghosts, shaking skeletons, giant spiders, and other fun things.The JMG group set up the display and made their own decorations, such as snakes made from gourds. Josh led the walk and helped the younger children decorate pumpkins.

This year, for the first time, Joshua received honors on his school report card. He also scored above average on his science SAT scores. Joshua believes that belonging to a JMG group has contributed to his improved grades. He is certain that, by belonging to a JMG group, he will continue to learn and improve. Some day, he wants to become a master gardener and continue to help the community.

I am very proud of all that grows in my garden, but I am most proud of Joshua Greene.
At age 13, Joshua Greene is already an experienced gardener.