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Youth gardening digs to decade mark

POULSBO — The Washington State University Kitsap County Extension Master Gardeners are calling all green thumbs to the Raab Park Youth Garden Open House, which will be celebrating 10 years of youth gardening from 1-4 p.m. Sunday.

Families, friends and especially kids are invited to join in the fun, including harvesting and sampling of the garden’s produce, demonstrations from the Compost Team, refreshments and the sharing of fond memories.

“It’s always been a garden where the whole community pitches in and helps with things,” said garden co-founder and WSU Kitsap County extension horticulture educator Peg Tillery. “Every summer they have a minimum of 600 and a maximum of 1,000 go thorugh the garden, and that’s just in the 10 to 11 weeks that we have the programs up there on Mondays.”

Tillery said planning for the the garden began in 1996, and community business and individuals have been contributing to keep the volunteer-run plot going ever since. Children from all over the county have shared in filling it with various plants, including native trees, a bird and butterfly garden, raspberries and a pea patch.

“The whole metamorphosis of the garden has just been so exciting.” Tillery said.

Adults, too, can learn from and enjoy the garden.

“While the kids are watering and doing things, the parents are asking us tons of questions,” Tillery said. With the number of mothers who meet there while allowing their kids to work in the dirt, she said it became clear “that more than gardening was coming out of that garden.”

It’s been a gift in her personal life, and a delight for the community that has served as a community support group, she said.

“One of the things I’ve always found so encouraging about the youth garden is that people who want to garden at their own house, they can look at it and be encouraged,” she said. “It’ll give them ideas for their own garden.”

While many Master Gardener-shaped plots are tidy, the youth garden, though appealing, has its own fair share of weeds, proving, Tillery said, that it doesn’t have to be daunting for families to build up successful gardens.

“The youth garden is beautiful and gorgeous, but it has a very family-oriented feel to it,” she said. “That’s actually what all master gardeners try to help the public know.”

Tillery said during peak growing seasons the garden donates about 50 pounds of produce each week to North Kitsap Fishline. For families interested in becoming involved, this event is the perfect time to see what it’s all about.

“It’s a really special place,” Tillery said.

To get to Raab Park from Highway 305, take Hostmark up the hill, turn right on Caldart, turn right into the driveway for the park, then an immediate right into the park. The Youth Garden is in the Northwest corner of the park.

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