Children in the Garden Club at the Ken Carlson Boys & Girls Club carefully covered silk scarves with cosmos petals, onion skins, daffodil flowers, and petals from other dye plants they grew last summer in a full-circle gardening project. Third-grader Jada Taylor, 8, enjoyed putting the flowers on her scarf.
“I thought it turned out very pretty, especially the color,” Jada says. “I enjoy gardening and planting and learning about and tasting different vegetables and recipes.”
Margaret Savoca and her husband, Bruce Bradford, helped found the Garden Club at the Boys & Girls Club nine years ago. The children sign up to be members of the club, which meets twice a week during the growing season and twice a month during the winter months. During our visit in February, the kids were picking collards and pulling up carrots in the garden.
Children in the Garden Club grow a variety of vegetables, herbs, and fruits, and they have healthy snacks that often include crops they’ve grown. They take garden-themed field trips, including visits to Old Salem Museums & Gardens and Minglewood Farm & Nature Preserve.
The children participate for multiple years with consistent volunteers, which helps nurture their relationships. When harvest time comes, the garden’s bounty is divided among the kids, who then get to take it home to share with their families.
“The kids feel a sense of ownership towards the garden,” says volunteer Kelsey Brown. “Whatever they plant is what they’re most excited about.”
Emily Dutton, 12, likes the strawberries.
“I like when we do fun activities, and I like the smell and the good vibes in the garden,” she says. “It’s kind of amazing that Mother Nature did all this.”
The Garden Club began growing fiber and dye plants last year when Brown, a fiber artist who had volunteered with the Boys & Girls Club in Asheville, connected with the local Boys & Girls Club on Reynolds Park Road. “I love natural dyes, and I also love teaching kids about where everyday things come from,” she says.
Old Salem contributed weld seeds, which make a colorfast, true yellow, and red madder. The children will also plant seeds they collected from the plants they grew last year, such as cosmos, safflower, brown cotton, and cotton. They’ll use many of these items for craft projects at the Boys & Girls Club.
“The benefits of the program are three-fold,” says founder Margaret Savoca. “Volunteers and children become part of a team with a common purpose; we learn from each other; and we constantly are surprised by the unexpected joys of the outdoors, growing, and learning.”
Garden Club participant Jaidon Craft, 12, enjoys socializing while he tends the garden and gains a sense of accomplishment from what they grow. He explains that they make compost to help the crops.
“We have maintained them to keep them alive,” Jaidon says. “I think the garden is really good for everybody. It can help you relieve your pain and just chill.”
For information on supporting the Garden club, email firstname.lastname@example.org.