It’s in the in-between that the real magic happens.

The seeds are planted, the roots take hold…

and we blossom into who we were meant to be

~ Kristen Jongen

Boy it takes time and effort to get a garden going. But it also takes plants and seeds and LEAD Agency received a boatload of both from Frisby Garden Center of Vinita. It happened in a funny way. I never like to ask for donations, but did after laughing with Kendall Bowlin when I purchased a few of the end of the season plants for children to plant in LEAD Agency's Community Garden. After mentioning the children would be planting the garden, she began to tell stories about her and her sister's childhood gardening shenanigans. Like the time they got so tired of canning beets, they took their own wagon, filled it with beets they did not want to can and dumped them in the tall weeds at the edge of the garden, only to find that same wagon sitting out the back door the next morning all filled with beets that needed to be canned. Their father never said a word, and neither did they while they spent that morning canning the last of the season's beets!

The stories kept coming and we laughed and laughed. As I drove away, still laughing, I turned around and went in to ask for her to let me know which ditch she would be putting the left over vegetable plants when they closed for the season, and I would gather them up for the Boys and Girls to plant in our summer garden! She immediately grabbed a box and off we went picking up all sorts of vegetables, onion sets of every color and the potatoes more than ready to plant. Then she began to reach for the seeds! Everything from corn to pumpkins. And seeds for the fall and winter to set the nitrogen so the garden will be ready for next spring.

This is the 4th year for the LEAD Community Garden and the 4th year for the Miami Boys and Girls Club to bring gardeners. Some are experts by now, knowing how to work and what needs to be done in the garden. Perennials and bulbs they planted years ago are returning and are in bloom.

Our garden is a neighborhood garden and has no fencing. Some of our neighbors we may never know their names, but they walk by the garden when they take a shortcut and admire the vegetables, stop and inquire and help us make sure nothing goes to waste. We had a late start this year, but with the rains and cool weather the new plants are settling in and I think will be giving back pretty quickly.

It doesn't cost much to garden, and it doesn't even take very many seeds! We planted marigolds the first year and now just move around the ones that come up on their own. So far we have used only rain water from the rain barrels donated by Sheila Hestand and painted by Jessica Stout's NEO art students. But that is bound to change sometime soon.

In the middle of our garden we have what we call "how to garden in a place that might have contaminated soil" (like Ottawa County, OK). The beds and trails are covered with layers of cardboard and the trails got layers of wood shavings to prevent access to the soil and prevent weed growth. The beds are filled with clean soil, one outlined with empty coca-cola bottles. We have a keyhole garden in the making and tomatoes growing in bales of wheat straw from Craig County. Years ago EPA contractors had tested the soil at that property, but this spring the DEQ tested it. We were waiting for the "alls-well" before we actually began the "big" garden, but in the wait time, the demonstration ideas just wouldn't stop coming and J. Michael Scruggs made sure we had a variety of methods to use until the plot was for sure safe.

The 3 previous years, the children would walk down the alley from the Boys and Girls Club and we could watch them coming and returning. That changed this year with the move to the beautiful center in Riverview Park and they arrive by van with the center staff, a couple of times accompanied by Juli Mathews, Miami High School environmental science instructor and avid gardener. Speaking of gardeners, Stardust Market Garden's Nick Lorax plowed up our garden and Kelda helped lay it out in a grid that most master gardeners would approve. My dear friend June Taylor arrives with a bag filled with plants from her flower garden, cockscomb, mum, and chocolate mint, even mint tea and chocolate mint candies to go along with the taste. McKaylee Steen LEAD's summer intern plans her week to be there when the children arrive while Martin Lively makes sure the plants are watered for the long weekends.

A lot of good comes from the garden, but a garden does a lot of good for those who tend it. Neighborhood gardens, backyard, front and side yards, pots on the porches will feed us and magically we blossom.

Respectfully submitted ~ Rebecca Jim

— Rebecca Jim is executive director of the LEAD Agency