This garden will produce more than fruits and vegetables. It will provide a valuable experience for the all the young people planting and harvesting it.
It's really great when things come together so nicely.
Doylestown Hospital was interested in starting a community garden. A local Boy Scout was hoping to do his Eagle Scout project at the hospital. A sixth-grade garden club from a neighboring elementary school was eager to plant a garden. And Children's Village, located on the grounds of Doylestown Hospital, had a great space for a garden and many willing little hands to help tend it.
"All the different parts just really came together nicely to create this," said Doyle Elementary sixth-grade teacher Gay McPhee. She oversees the garden club started by a couple of her students.
Chloe Timberg, 11, became interested in planting a garden when her mom told her about people who don't have enough healthy, fresh food and the need for food pantries to help them out. Chloe recruited fellow gardening enthusiast Sophia Ponomarenko, 12, and the pair asked Principal Susan L. Salvesen for the go-ahead to start a garden club. They call it Gardening to Give.
Teacher Gay McPhee was on board and applied for and received some seed money in the form of a grant from CB Cares Educational Foundation. CB Cares is a nonprofit organization that works with community leaders, agencies, businesses and schools to improve the quality of life in Central Bucks. The garden club held its first meeting in March, followed by a field trip to the local Home Depot, which provided a discount on gardening materials. The group of about 15 students in the club started seeds inside and were eager to plant.
In the meantime, Boy Scout Sachin Billakanti, a student at the Lawrenceville School, contacted Doylestown Hospital about doing his Eagle Scout project. The plan was to construct garden beds at Children's Village, the child education center on the grounds of the hospital.
Sachin set about to raise funds and purchased kits to build nine rectangular beds to fill with earth. Sachin made sure the frames were made of untreated composite material, free from chemicals that might harm the young people working on the garden. Sachin completed the project with a lot of hard work and sweat and the beds were ready to be filled with dirt and planted.
In late May, the sixth-graders worked as a team to fill the beds with a layer of stones and enough dirt to make any plant happy. With guidance from Gay, the students planted watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, pumpkins, squash, onions, herbs and tomatoes. They included a few marigolds in each bed to act as natural bug repellant.
"If you want something done, ask a sixth-grader," said Children's Village Director Teri Windisch, admiring the students' hard work and efficiency. "I'm thrilled. This garden is just right for us."
The Doyle students will take care of the garden through the end of the school year. Children's Village students and summer campers will help out over the summer. Available sixth-graders will mentor the little kids in the summer months. The then seventh-graders will return in the fall for the harvest. The plan is to give the fruits of their labor to a local food shelter, or the clients of the Ann Silverman Community Health Clinic located at Doylestown Hospital.
Many of the sixth-graders help with gardens at home, and love being outside in the fresh air, getting their hands in the soil.
"The students are having a great time learning how to plan a garden and sustain a garden and when it comes to gardening, the ultimate gift of giving the produce away to a local food shelter," said Gay.
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