Environmental Learning Gardening Q & A Green News Natural Play

Three Little Gardens Part II: Creative City Kids

Well, we heard the suburban playhouse garden story in part I and now we move on to meet the green needs of some creative city kids in part II.  Remember how the storms of June 2013 huffed and puffed?   Those storms could NOT destroy the three little spirited starter gardens!  Growing Green Hearts was able to coach (and coax) gardens into three backyards during the spring of 2013 and here’s how it went.

I know for sure that Dave, a musician and motivational speaker, taught me to enjoy rap music and the stories it holds.  It’s not that I minded rap before, it’s just that his creative and social justice raps, songs, and insights helped me to “get it”.   While watching our kids play at church one day, we talked about creativity, vocation, and power of play.  I couldn’t help but mention how Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods book points to creativity and resourcefulness showing strong connections with nature play.  Dave mentioned that a garden would be cool but he didn’t know a weed from an edible plant.  Annual, perennial, what?  Some weeds are edibles but we didn’t get into that… yet!

Fast forward a few weeks to when Dave and Carolyn had just moved into their house in south Minneapolis and were expecting a baby soon.  What backyard play date is complete without ice cream and garden design talk?   It ended up being their new house had many plants from the previous owners that come up year after year.  Yet some spaces along the house and white picket fence in the small backyard were looking spotty.  Carolyn and Dave wanted a creative fun space for their kids to play, clean and green looking backyard that is low maintenance for busy parents.

Their toddler loves to run and roll so we kept the grassy green middle space and spoke of adding stumps, logs, or extra large sticks for creative play.  Instead of breaking new ground for a raised bed garden, we rearranged the perennials to open up a sunny spot by the house.  We combined the raspberry bushes from different areas in the yard to complete a berry patch between the fence line and the concrete walkway.  If you have grown raspberries before you know they love sun and can creep into the path or lawn in no time!  About 30 daylillies were split and moved to fill out and round the southeast corner under a tree.  Filling in the vacancies then adding a thick layer of mulch this year will lead to little to no weeding for the next few years and the gentle green knee-high wave of green softens the square shape of the yard.

Here’s what happened to that new sunny spot by the house.  Why use a trellis when you can build a fort?  Rescued from the brush pile were some gnarled, crazy sticks about 5 feet long and 1.5 inches in diameter that I dug into the ground and wrapped fencing around to create a unique hiding space.  Cucumber and pea plants that climb that fencing material and sticks will keep it cool and cozy.  Next the tomatoes, peppers, squash and herbs were placed in the garden.  Since the tomatoes grow tallest and herbs shortest they were placed in the back.  A couple of rows of popcorn seeds will add summer and fall interest while logs from the woodpile made a garden border and signal a boundary for feet walking past to steer clear.  Natural cedar mulch (not dyed) was purchased and spread around the perimeter of the yard to tie the whole project together.  Not too bad for a single afternoon!

Here is what Dave said about the project, “This project was an incredible blessing to our family.  As we were anticipating the birth of our new child, we were frantic.  The nesting instinct was kicking in but we didn’t have enough time to work on creating a sacred space for ourselves.  When Heidi came, it was just the thing that we needed to prepare for our baby. The baby was born a few days later and we felt relaxed knowing that he would come home to a beautiful garden.  I can’t believe how Heidi was able to use things that we already had to create such a great space.  It has been wonderful to watch our son learn about plants and where his food comes from.  I don’t think this would have happened this year without Heidi’s help.  Thank you!  Thank you!”