When I think of gardening, one of my first memories is as a little girl following my grandfather around in his vegetable garden. He would pop cherry tomatoes into his mouth like they were candy and go on and on about how delicious they were. Even though I hated tomatoes, his reaction and the fact that they were called “cherry” tomatoes made me willing to try it . . . YUCK! I still to this day pick them off of my Chick-Fil-A cobb salad, but I love that memory and that sparked in me the love of watching vegetables grow.
It wasn’t until my husband and I bought our first house as newlyweds that we started our very own spring and summer vegetable garden in our backyard. We borrowed my grandfather’s tiller, prepped the soil, and planted just about every vegetable you could think of . . . you name it, we planted it!
We knew that once we had kids, we wanted to let them experience the wonder and sense of pride from growing their own food. Gardening with kids requires a little more work and patience, but it’s SO worth it. The excitement they experience is infectious. I love watching them run outside to see if there are any new sugar snap peas to pick, any new cucumbers to cut up for the salad, sharing the freshly picked vegetables on the grass, or just seeing how much bigger that watermelon has grown since last week!
Everyone doesn’t have the space or sunshine to grow a garden in their backyard, but don’t let that stop you. If you would also like a garden but don’t have the land, lack the time to ready your garden for planting, or feel like you need guidance and don’t know where to start, a community garden is a perfect solution for you.
Recently, I have been so excited to discover three community gardens around Charleston: Corrine Jones Community Garden in Downtown Charleston, Magnolia Park and Community Garden on Magnolia Road in West Ashley, and Medway Park and Community Garden in Riverland Terrace on James Island, all part of the Charleston Park Conservancy. Each of these parks has raised beds that can be leased by families for a small fee (there is also a waiting list if the garden’s plots are full).
Larger community beds grow food that is harvested by volunteers and donated to local food pantries. Several times a month, the families can get together and help harvest food to be donated to 180 Place, Amore Healing Kitchen, James Island Outreach, and Neighborhood House.
My aunt recently started planting and gardening her leased raised bed at Corrine Jones. As I visited the community garden, I loved browsing bed after bed of lush greens and colorful and clever homemade garden signs like “Cale Patch.” I knew I also wanted to be a part of this cool gardening community. One thing that appealed to me the most was that the beds were ready to plant, no prep work or tilling needed. This is perfect for busy families! Here are some other reasons why it would be fun, rewarding, and great for a family with kids.
1. Gardening Support
Don’t be intimidated if you have never gardened before! The community gardens host Gather and Garden events where the gardeners can meet and plan their garden and get support and help from the park conservancy’s community garden coordinator and fellow gardeners or volunteers.
Sometimes when you garden in your backyard it’s easy to get lazy and let your garden get overgrown. When you garden in a community garden, you see your neighbor’s gardens looking successful and you feel motivated to also make your garden look good!
Medway and Magnolia Community Gardens have donated 2500 pounds of food to local outreaches in the last year. Bring your kids to one of the community gardens during a harvesting day. I love that this gets the kids outside and they are learning about plants while helping grow and harvest food for those in need around the Lowcountry. What a cool opportunity!
4. Meet Friends
Whether it’s walking around and admiring other’s herbs and vegetables, asking for help, volunteering, or attending a Garden and Gather, Community Gardening makes it easy to meet other families. Corrine Jones community garden is conveniently right next to a playground. Gardening playdate, anyone??