Youth garden celebrates decade of kids growing

 - Jennifer Morris/Staff photo
— image credit: Jennifer Morris/Staff photo

POULSBO — It may have rained buckets Sunday during the Raab Park Youth Garden Open House, but despite huddling under the picnic structure to stay warm and dry, more than 20 Master Gardeners and green thumbs gathered to celebrate the program’s 10th anniversary.

Under the care of Washington State University Kitsap County Extension Master Gardeners, the Raab Park Youth Garden has flourished with a community effort by professionals, children and their parents. Kitsap County Native Plant Advisor Marilyn Mathis, who leads the garden’s Monday morning summer program for area youth, said more than 175 children attended the classes this summer alone.

Poulsbo Mayor Kathryn Quade said she was dually impressed by both the garden and the number of people involved.

“What’s wonderful is you teach the child to develop a lifelong appreciation,” she said.

Twelve-year-old Margaret Graves and her sister Hannah, 16, said working in the garden makes for a great activity the entire family can do.

“It’s just a nice atmosphere and a really nice garden,” Margaret Graves said.

Hannah Graves agreed, and said she especially likes that the plot produces fruit and vegetables that can be donated to North Kitsap Fishline. Nearly 100 pounds have been donated this year so far.

“It’s fun,” she said.

Port Orchard resident Pam Henrich, a new Master Gardener this year, chose the youth garden specifically as the place she wanted to put in her required hours.

“I wanted to get more involved with children,” she said. “They had some really good turnouts. Everyone really seems to enjoy themselves.”

Mathis said kids from infancy to about 11 years of age, as well as youth church, day care and parks and recreation groups, take advantage of what the garden offers, which includes “Stepping Stone Day,” education about birds, butterflies and bugs, and the planting of and caring for various greenery, including native plants.

“We teach about soils and bugs and growing things. We’ll be teaching them about native plants, birds, and how to protect wildlife that is slowly being pushed out of the area because of the population growth,” she said. “We’re also teaching the parents about compost and worm bins and about how to do a sustainable garden without pesticides and herbicides.”

Mathis said the activity of gardening is one that not only gets kids out of the house, but puts them in touch with nature and the growing process.

“I think kids stay indoors too much now,” she said. “I think they miss the idea of getting out, seeing nature, actually hearing the birds. It’s such a lovely spot up here... We just have a lot of fun.”

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