MIAMI – Gardening is fun, and it’s all the more so if you involve kids! According to Susan Patterson, author of “9 Reasons Every Child Should Help Grow a Garden,” there are many benefits to gardening with children not the least of which is to get them to eat more vegetables.

It seems that for young people, the more health benefits of vegetables are verbally emphasized the less vegetables appeal to them. But children often demonstrate enthusiasm for eating things they’ve grown and picked. Other benefits of gardening with children include helping them reconnect with nature, demonstrating cause and effect, and learning about the cycle of life.

Last fall, the Miami Public Library received a Health Literacy grant from the Oklahoma Department of Libraries made possible by the Library Services and Technology Act and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Library staff met with Health Literacy Project Partners and decided to put children’s gardens in at the new Ottawa County Boys & Girls Club Miami unit.

The themed garden beds were designed and built by the library's Literacy Coordinator, Kristen Bartz, and AmeriCorps NCCC Earth 7 team members who were brought to Ottawa County through a grant coordinated by Kathy Enyart of the Ottawa County OSU Extension office.

Boys & Girls Club members helped to plant the beds and will also have the opportunity to observe and harvest what they grow.

The pizza gardens were created in three children’s swimming pools with dividers placed inside to make it look like pizza slices. Each bed has “slices” with various pizza toppings including: Roma tomato plants, onion, garlic, bell peppers, basil, and oregano. When the plants are producing the children will have the opportunity to make pizzas using produce they have grown.

The snacking garden is a large rectangle made with cement blocks that were painted by AmeriCorps members. This bed includes cherry tomatoes, mint, lemon balm, and other plants. Children will be able to munch on these as snacks right after picking.

The butterfly garden includes alyssum, zinnias, and cosmos to attract butterflies. It also includes a butterfly feeder and a butterfly house. This will give children the opportunity to observe the varieties of butterflies that are in our area.

Health Literacy Project Partners include the Ottawa County Health Department, Northeastern Tribal Health Systems, Ottawa County OSU Extension Office and the library. Other projects have included the Community Garden at the health department as well as numerous classes and demonstrations at OCHD, NTHS, Ottawa County Farmer’s Market, and the library.