After the brutal winter that central Wisconsin experienced this year, the thing that's on everybody's mind is spring, the season of growth, rebirth and the start of the gardening season.
The North Central Wisconsin Master Gardeners and Marathon County 4-H will begin their Summer Gardening Series in May. The program is a family-based introduction to gardening that will cover each step in the gardening process from planning the garden, types of gardening, planting, maintaining, insects and plant diseases, and garden maintenance. It's a hands-on program in which participants will plant raised beds using the square foot gardening method. Youths will also be involved in the gardening experience, making it fun for the entire family.
The Summer Gardening Series will meet six days throughout the summer. The adult classes will be taught by Master Gardener volunteers. These volunteers participate in 10 hours of continuing education to keep their horticultural knowledge up to date and to earn the title of Master Gardener. At the start of each session, adults and youths will be divided; youth classes will learn about the same topics as the adults, but through engaging, interactive activities. Later, both youths and adults will regroup in the garden where they will work together as families to grow, maintain and harvest their vegetables.
The Summer Gardening Series ties in perfectly to the 4-H program because it emphasizes the essential elements of 4-H: Belonging, Mastery, Generosity and Independence. In addition, it's a great opportunity for youths to learn about the environment, get their hands dirty, and spend quality time with their families. Studies show that gardening benefits kids' health and well-being, their attitudes toward learning and the environment, and their connections to the community. In the garden, kids learn to work cooperatively with others, practice patience, learn the value of hard work while weeding and watering the vegetables, and feel pride in their accomplishments when they are finally able to harvest and eat their crops. Gardening introduces them to healthy foods, and teaches them respect for the environment.
The garden space is known as a "Teaching Garden," and the goal is to enable families and individuals to garden in their own backyards, whether that's a container on the patio, in a community garden, or in an actual backyard. "Through this class we strive to teach participants the skills necessary to grow their own produce," says Heather Schlesser, UW-Extension agriculture agent. "We believe that everyone, even those without a large yard or any yard, have the right to fresh home-grown produce."
For more information on Marathon County 4-H or to register for the Summer Gardening Series visit the Marathon County UW-Extension website at marathon.uwex.edu or call 715-261-1230.