Look at these kids
It was over 90 degrees on Friday, July 22, but that didn’t stop students from the Shaker High School Summer Program from traveling to the Beltrone Living Center to pick up a few tips from the Gardening Club to help manage their own community garden.
The students heard from Beltrone residents, including John Diggs, about the importance of patience when it comes to gardening.
“You can’t just put the seed in and think tomorrow you’re going to have a vegetable,” he said, standing next to his raised garden bed. “You have to have patience and follow through. You can’t just throw the seed in and walk away. They want care.”
He then began clawing around the soil to provide more air for the seed and picked at the weeds that could potentially choke out the growing plant. He also told the kids about the reward of actually watching their plants grow. If they’re tending to a vegetable garden like his, there’s even another added bonus.
“At the end, guess what? You get to eat them,” he said. “No preservatives and you did it.”
Diggs said gardening isn’t something that is forced upon him, it is something he chooses to do, which makes it all the more fun. When he had his own house, he said he tended to his own garden in his backyard, and as kid, he said he used to sell vegetables with his family as a way to get some pocket change.
He said he comes out when the sun is setting to water his plants. This is important for gardening because if you water the plants while the sun is out, it will take the moisture away. It is a relaxing hobby for him, though, and teaching the children about it is something Diggs said he enjoys.
“Teaching has always been one of my favorite things to do, even though I’m not a teacher; I’m an engineer by trade,” he said. “Trying to help someone else learn from your mistakes, that’s a good thing. That’s a reward in itself. You’re getting back more than you give.”
Sandy Amone, a teacher for the Shaker summer program, said the students had acquired a raised gardening bed this year and weeded out the area to put plants in. The students have been able to apply what they have learned in their math and reading classes to their gardening. Amone said the students have also learned about healthy eating with fresh produce.
“They’re learning about height,” she said. “We’re measuring and graphing our three main crops and how much they grow each week. We’re learning measurement, we worked on perimeter in inches, we’re working on gathering facts and reading about different crops … and we’re preparing recipes for snacks.”
There are also history lessons tied into the summer program with visits to places such as the Three Sisters Iroquois Indian Diorama at the New York State Museum and a visit to the farmer’s market at the Empire State Plaza.
Amone said Beltrone had invited the gardeners from Shaker to come and visit with some of the seniors. The students came armed with a list of questions for the “master gardeners.”
“It was a great experience,” she said of the event.
Gwen Graham, a resident of Beltrone who has been managing the gardening club for the past eight or nine years, said she and other seniors enjoy gardening because they love eating the fresh vegetables and that it is another form of exercise instead of just walking. She said she enjoyed teaching the children about the hobby and was pleased that many of them formulated their questions before coming to Beltrone.
“It did not overwhelm us with us giving technical information,” she said. “I think they made out OK. I think they enjoyed their visit and some of them were anxious to ask questions and to relate what they had in their family gardens. … They were sharing with their classmates and didn’t realize it. I thoroughly enjoyed it.”