Digging into summer fun


First Posted: 8/20/2009

WILKES-BARRE – Mix tons of mulched soil, about 400 plants, and 10 and 1/2 kids and what do you get? Dirty fingers, a few worms, corny lyrics to an ad-libbed song, and a community garden outside an urban elementary center intended to become an “edible schoolyard.”

08/19/09– Jill Price of Edwardsville shows her one year old son Gus where to dig a hole to plant herbs during Wednesday’s “Peace & Carrots” summer camp project in a community garden constructed behind Kistler Elementary School in Wilkes-Barre. (PETE G. WILCOX/THE TIMES LEADER)

PGW

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“I never thought doing this would be so tiring!” Michael Vreeland said after he and Christian Stone had filled a plot of mulch with cabbage and broccoli plants. Then he stroked the dirt held in a wood frame – what gardeners call a “raised bed” – and pondered, “Can you imagine if your bed felt like this?”

Ten children from the Lands at Hillside Farms “Peace & Carrots” summer camp, along with a 1-year-old toddler son of a camp counselor, played farmer behind Kistler Elementary Wednesday thanks to a coalition of agencies. In less than an hour they filled raised beds with basil, oregano, thyme, squash, butterfly-attracting flowers, broccoli and cabbage – which, incidentally, Christian doesn’t eat. “I like peas and carrots,” he opined.

How appropriate, considering the camp name.

Some were first time gardeners. A few, like Syrah and Kate Musto, were veterans – at least, at watching other people plant.

“We have multiple gardens at home,” Syrah said. Do you work in them? “No” Why not? “I don’t like gardening.”

Really? You could have fooled us with the polished way you planted those squash.

The list of partners who made the garden possible is long: The Pennsylvania Environmental Council, the Wilkes-Barre Health Department which got the wood for the beds through a grant and then built the frames, Hillside Farms, King’s College, The Penn State Cooperative Extension/4-H, Earth Conservancy, which provided the soil mulched from yard clippings collected by local municipalities, and Wilkes-Barre Area School District, which provided the space. The district hopes to use the garden for education programs, getting students involved in tending the veggies and cooking some in consumer science classes, teacher Mike Corcoran said.

Camp Counselor Andy Loughney sang a few impromptu song lyrics, sounding a bit like a poor-man’s chain gang cantor, with the students singing replies.

“We’re digging in the dirt!” “Uh-huh! Uh-huh!” “Gonna plant some seeds” “Gonna plant some seeds” “Gonna dig down deep” “Uh-huh! Uh-huh!” Gonna plant some healthy foods” “Gonna plant some healthy foods.”

After a few verses, a fellow counselor offered a suggestion.

“Maybe you could try to make it rhyme.”

Uh-huh, uh-huh!

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