Children playing in the front yard is something I rarely see these days. This apparent lack of neighbourhood play saddens me a little, so I was thrilled when I heard about a verge veggie garden created by some Newcastle kids. The garden is only a couple of weeks old and already has become a place for the neighbourhood kids to meet, work and play.
The motivated mum guiding the project, Cathy Stuart, said she wanted to help the neighbourhood kids get to know each other. “The children in our street attend four different primary schools, so despite many of them being of a similar age, they didn’t really know each other”.
Cathy’s daughters Alexa and Jasmine letterboxed their street, inviting the neighbourhood kids to help create a kids community veggie garden on their nature strip. Interest far exceeded their expectations. 14 kids and nine parents turned up to the first working bee, with many of them enthusiastically returning with their friends the following day. By the end of the first four days, 24 kids and 18 adults had helped out or simply popped in to see what was happening.
There are big plans for the project, including street stalls selling produce from the garden and a neighbourhood burger night. Cathy already has her eye on a neighbour’s nature strip as a spot for a few citrus trees.
So far they’ve planted lettuce, spinach, sugar snap peas, carrots, shallots, spring onions, strawberries, broccoli, pak choi, beetroot, potatoes, basil mint, rosemary, coriander, bush basil, dill, parsley and marigolds. All this in the first weekend. “I wanted the planting to happen quickly to get the kids excited” said Cathy.
The kids have been told they can pick anything they like from the garden, but that they need to leave something for others.
They’ll also be a kids-only ‘Veggies on the Verge’ committee. Aside from the usual committee positions of convenor, secretary and treasurer, there’ll be a projects manager, events manager and a range of other positions, giving the children some experience working together as part of a committee.
I can’t wait to see how this project develops. The benefits extend far beyond helping the neighbourhood kids connect. Parents are meeting and chatting, children are learning how to grow food, and friendships are being formed. Imagine if every street had a kids' verge veggie garden.
Originally published in my Newcastle Herald column 'Less is More' 17th August 2013.
For more information on this inspiring project visit Graeme Stuart's blog Sustaining Community Engagement: A kids vegie garden on the verge, Kids’ Vegies on the Verge – day 2, and Kids’ Vegies on the Verge Update.
Image credit: Graeme Stuart