Memorial Day Planting

Sarah Pounders – Education Specialist

Originally known as Decoration Day, a day for Americans to remember the fallen soldiers of the Civil War celebrated by placing flowers and flags on their graves, plants have always played a central role in the Memorial Day holiday. Flowers and wreaths serve as symbols of reverence and honor. 

"The golden fern originally graced the front porch of my grandmother’s house… a spot that I have fond memories of swinging on during hot summer days so very long ago."

However, using plants to keep others alive in our hearts and minds does not need to be reserved for holidays and special occasions. When I started brainstorming ideas for a Memorial Day blog, my first thoughts were of the plants in my own home and garden that are living reminders of loved ones we have lost — a Golden Boston fern and a mock orange. They aren’t just like plants that my grandmother and my husband’s grandfather grew, they are plants that were directly propagated from the plants that grew at their homes — a piece of their lives that we were able to take with us even when they are no longer there to visit.

Both plants were the result of divisions. Some plants grow in a clumping habit where they send out roots and or stems (above ground or underground) that then produce new stems and leaves. As the name applies, once the clumps exceed their original size, you can dig up the plant, divide the plant into smaller clumps (make sure each clump has roots, stems and leaves) and then replant as separate plants.

The golden fern originally graced the front porch of my grandmother’s house… a spot that I have fond memories of swinging on during hot summer days so very long ago. My fern now sits in my kitchen window and I think of her every time I look at it. My Dad also has them growing all over his house and my kids will remember them as the plants they would hide behind and find all the best Easter Eggs in (and make a mess with when they would accidentally run into them and dry leaves would scatter).  

"It blooms every year right around my husband’s birthday reminding him of his grandfather and all the good times they shared."

The mock orange grew wild at my husband’s grandfather’s house and it is already claiming its territory in our own yard. It blooms every year right around my husband’s birthday reminding him of his grandfather and all the good times they shared. I hope that some day we will be able to pass a piece of these plants along to our own kids along with the memories of these loved ones that they will never meet, but we don’t want them to forget.

Perhaps this Memorial Day as you visit family and friends or they visit you, you can throw in a family gardening activity and search around for plants to share. In addition to division, you can also propagate new plants by sharing seeds (although in some cases you may not get exactly the same plant in return since seeds are the product of combining genetic material of two different parents). Another option is to take cuttings. Taking a cutting involves removing a piece of a leaf, stem or root and placing it in potting soil (or some will even re-grow roots in water) where it then develops the other parts that it left behind (i.e. a stem will then grow roots, a root will then grow a stem). It is a little bit of plant magic for kids to see the new plant grow new parts. The Missouri Botanical Garden offers a great article with step-by-step instructions on Propagating Plants by Cuttings.

To maximize your success, try to choose plants that are hardy and easy to grow.  Some plants are better suited to be ‘pass-along plants’ (a term used by Steve Bender and Felder Rushing in their book by the same name).  If you are going to cultivate a sentimental attachment to a plant, you want to make sure it is going to thrive.

KidsGardening in Chicago!

Larry Keyes – IT Director

It is hard to top the excitement of watching the transformation of a schoolyard through the installation of a school garden. The KidsGardening staff just returned from a trip to the Chicago area where we worked with our corporate sponsor, PT Holdings, to build a school garden on the grounds of Army Trail Elementary School in Addison, Illinois. Along with 120 eager volunteers, we transformed an outdoor classroom space by adding raised beds for flowering plants, vegetables, a sensory garden, and a pollinator garden along with new benches, a storage shed, and composters.





PTGarden2016_WM-0190Along with building and assembling all of the structures, we also planted close to 150 plants, including perennials, annuals and vegetable starts. An additional 50 plants will be installed by students this week following a formal garden dedication at the school. The result of our hard work was a beautiful garden that will provide hands-on learning opportunities for many years to come.

While in the Chicago area, we had the opportunity to visit the garden we partnered with PT Holdings to build last year at York Community High School in Elmhurst. It was a delight to find all of the beds prepared and ready for this year's planting.

PTGarden2016_WM-9594Just like at the end of a movie, we want to roll the credits to acknowledge everyone who made this garden possible. We would especially like to thank our partners at PT Holdings for their generous investment of time and money in school gardens in their community, Thanks also to the Army Trail Elementary School PTA and ATES principal and staff (and a special shout out to the custodial staff) for embracing the project with contagious enthusiasm. Finally, thanks to our vendors: Target for donating lunch and breakfast, Addison Building Materials for cedar lumber, hardware and tools, Schwarz Nursery Garden Center for most of our plants, Gardener's Supply Company for tools and supplies, and Threeman Products for the Japanese arbor. We are looking forward to working with you all again on future projects!


Click here for MORE photos of the Garden Install!


Kids’ Gardening – Cultivating Food and Life Lessons

This week’s blog post is from our friends at, a lifestyle blog devoted to bringing you expert content to make your life easier!

Just as with learning to walk, children learn best by doing rather than by watching. Gardening with kids is filled with exploration, education, and fun, allowing them to experience things firsthand and participate in active learning. Working in a garden inspires creativity, develops nurturing skills, and empowers kids to make choices, thus giving them a sense of pride in their accomplishments.

Growing Life Skills

The learning opportunities that come from gardening reach beyond the backyard. In the most literal sense, a garden is a science lab that cultivates curiosity about nature, horticulture, and wildlife. More broadly, gardening is a holistic activity in which children make connections between the different things they learn, and they can then apply those lessons to other things in life.

Planting Curiosity and Cultivating Empowerment

To empower kids, let them have a say in which plants are used and involve them in choosing projects and creating gardening plans.

Gardening provides many opportunities for engaging kids. By planting, designing, and maintaining the garden, children learn responsibility. By harvesting, cooking, and sharing the food they’ve grown, they learn about where food comes from and nutrition, and they develop healthy eating habits. As kids work together in groups, they learn important life skills, such as cooperating and sharing ideas.

For urban kids, garden activities offer a connection to nature that might be in short supply amid a city’s concrete and steel.

Create a Child-friendly Garden: Good Plants vs. Bad Plants

As with most things, you can find both the good and the bad when choosing plants. Some plants are downright toxic to kids (and dogs), so they should be avoided in a child-friendly garden.

Toxic Plants to Avoid
Source: Blog

Some plants to be avoided include castor bean (Ricinus communis), precatory bean, and rosary pea (Abrus). These plants are dangerous even in small quantities. Others are toxic in larger quantities, such as angel's trumpet (Brugmansia), delphinium, foxglove (Digitalis), euonymus, St. Johns Wort (Hypericum), lantana, cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima), love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena), and valerian (V. officinalis).

For a complete list of toxic and non-toxic plants, check out this handy list.

However, many plants are perfectly safe for children. These include veggies that grow quickly, such as pumpkins, potatoes, and radishes, and those with large seeds that fit well into small hands, such as beans and sunflowers.

Kids will love the scent of culinary herbs like chives, sage, mint, and basil, and those plants look great in a garden! Edible flowers, such as nasturtiums, pansies, violets, and calendulas, are pretty, and kids can use them to decorate a plate filled with the food they grew, harvested, and cooked.

Educational Opportunities Beyond the Garden

Gardening provides a good opportunity to learn problem-solving and math skills, including counting, geometry, percentages, and data gathering. Kids begin learning these skills as they measure the garden plot and designate shapes for various growing areas. Children can learn numbers and practice basic counting skills by counting the seeds needed and the number of plants that sprout in those spots. Older children can collect data and create charts and graphs to keep track of things in their gardens.

In addition to learning about nature and food origins and establishing healthy eating habits, research shows that children who grow their own food are more likely to eat fresh fruits and vegetables.1

Food for Thought: Planting a Pizza Garden

Connecting gardening with cooking is one way of extending learning outside the garden. Plant a “pizza garden” with tomatoes, peppers, and herbs like basil and oregano. Once kids harvest the goodies, they can invite their friends to a pizza party.

Create a Pizza Garden
Source: Blog

Gardening Activities for Every Season

Each season presents opportunities for its own particular activities – even winter, when your garden may be covered in snow. When gardening outdoors isn’t possible, bring the garden indoors by planting houseplants, growing a windowsill or kitchen garden, sowing seeds, or starting a creative project, such as building a bird feeder or making plant markers from popsicle sticks.

Indoor Garden Project: Plant an Avocado Seed in a Glass

This age-old project is actually a simple form of hydroponic gardening, helping teach kids about this soilless form of gardening. Avocados grow fast, making this an easy winter activity in which kids can observe and nurture their plant before taking it outside and replanting it in the spring.

How to Start and Avocado Seed
Source: Blog

Spring, Summer, and Fall Garden Projects

The cool weather of early spring is a good time to start seeds indoors. In late spring, when the weather grows warmer, kids can plant easy-to-grow cool-weather veggies like spinach, lettuce, radishes, and peas, which they are more likely to eat than chard or kale.

In the summer, you and your children can curl up and read Jack and the Beanstalk together next to the climbing green beans you planted.

In autumn, when the leaves begin to fall and temperatures drop, you can have your young ones help with late-season gardening projects. If you have room to grow pumpkins, you can use them at Halloween when you are ready to make jack-o-lanterns. Have the kids help decide what to carve in your pumpkins.

Lifelong Learning In and Out of the Garden

Some projects are multi-seasonal, meaning they can be enjoyed any time of year. A terrarium – a miniature garden inside a covered glass or plastic container – is an excellent method for teaching about evaporation, condensation, and precipitation. Constructing a bird feeder from a milk carton is an easy project for kids, and it allows them to observe birds’ feeding behaviors once you take it outside and fill it up.

Staying in the Zone

If you don’t live in a zone in which you can garden all year, you should put your garden to bed in the fall. Although it may seem like the end of the gardening season, this time of year still offers opportunities for experiential learning. Indoor gardening projects will keep kids growing plants all year, allowing them to develop important life skills such as responsibility, communication, cooperation, and sharing. Gardening helps build kids’ self-confidence and sense of accomplishment and gives adults a chance to spend quality time with the kids.

Source: Blog



KidsGardening Volunteers at Day in the Dirt!

Amanda S – Interim Executive Director

"We were so excited to be a part of the 4th annual Day in the Dirt! This weekend we volunteered with the UVM Rubenstein School, Lululemon Athletica, Burlington and ArtsRiot to install an outdoor learning space at John J Flynn Elementary in Burlington, VT. We had a great time digging in the dirt and meeting new friends! It was a beautiful day in Vermont!‪"

The 4th annual Day in the Dirt! includes teams of volunteers working at community and school garden sites all over the city, a delicious picnic, and plenty of fun and prizes. Day in the Dirt! is made possible thanks to nearly 200 volunteers and a host of local Vermont businesses.


This year’s garden work sites included:

  • KG-DayintheDirt--4Baird School Garden
  • Champlain Elementary School Fresh Garden
  • Community Teaching Garden at Ethan Allen Homestead
  • Community Teaching Garden at Tommy Thompson Community Garden
  • Family Room Garden at Ethan Allen Homestead Fanny Allen Garden at UVM Medical Center
  • Harbor Place in Shelburne, Homeward Bound Collective
  • Indigenous Seed Garden at the Intervale Center
  • KG-DayintheDirt--2JJ Flynn Elementary School
  • Lakeview South Community Garden
  • North Avenue Coop
  • Riverside Neighborhood Garden
  • The Hunt Garden
  • UVM Campus Children’s School


Day in the Dirt is a part of Vermont Community Garden Network's Dirty Weekend 2016, "A celebration of soils, spring and community spirit!" The weekend was full of incredible events such as the Dirt Ball, Day in the Dirt, and Compost Fest! It was a whole weekend of dirty fun for all! We're looking forward to next year!



Dirty Weekend Information Source: Vermont Community Garden Network