Fire Station Planting Events Spring 2015

It was our great pleasure to once again organize and participate in the planting of five inspiration gardens at fire stations across Washington DC.   Before I go into the details of this year’s planting events, I want to first describe the value and purpose of these inspiration gardens.   Everybody Grows has partnered with DC Fire and EMS for the past two years to create inspiration gardens that serve important and connected goals. The fire station gardens are an opportunity for the firefighters and surrounding communities to come together and share the joy of growing their own food.  The healthy food the gardens produce benefit the health of firefighters and their neighbors.  Gardening can also have a therapeutic effect for firefighters who perform a demanding and essential job.  For Everybody Grows, inspiration gardens are an important way to connect with new gardeners, and the fire station gardens are a highly visible and inviting examples of this part of our work.Engine-30-1

This spring, the fire station planting events were spread out over two Saturdays.  The first three events occurred on April 25, and the last two were on May 2nd.  The gardeners that helped us at each site included firefighters, community members, and volunteers from our networks.   Each of these groups enjoyed meeting one another and talking about gardening.  We planted a range of seedlings and seeds in response to requests from neighbors and firefighter.  We also take into account what we know works well in our climate and in raised bed gardens.Engine-6-2 At Engine 6, I had an interesting conversation with a firefighter from the station named Sgt. Robs, who is already a gardener and is growing a large garden at his home.  He shared positive feedback on our inspiration gardens, saying “I think that this is a great idea. I think a lot people were inspired this year to garden.  It is a lot easier than it sounds, but it can be intimidating.”  This is a message that we hope all our work is sending, which is that gardening is easy and accessible.

Ms. Brenda, a friend of Everybody Grows and neighbor to the garden, organized an especially strong turnout from the neighborhood at Engine 32.   An experienced gardener, she also helped us direct the volunteers and plan the layout of garden.  It is always very helpful for us to have such an enthusiastic and supportive person help us with one of our gardens.  She not only helps ensure this garden’s success, but she also helps with our outreach efforts by connecting us to interested community members.Engine-6-4

While we were in the middle of planting at Engine 15, two children from the neighborhood stopped by and helped us plant one of the beds.  They knew what they were doing, and said they had “planted at school.”  The green movement in DC has a strong presence in schools and education, and it is great to connect this fantastic learning and work to our inspiration gardens.Engine-15-2We are looking forward to returning to the fire stations to share harvest and cooking techniques.  Keep an eye on our website, Facebook, and Twitter for information about these events and for updates on the progress of these gardens.

 

Garden Therapy

During our recent planting day at Stoddard Nursing Home, I had a moving conversation with a resident who told me how she had recently undergone surgery, and how the garden gave her an extra reason to recover the ability to walk.  She wanted to be able to help out as much as possible.  She also told me how great the sun felt, and how she was so happy to be outside in the garden.  Her words reminded me of the optimism that gardening can instill.Gardens-Everybody-Grows-Stoddard-Baptist-Home-02

 

Gardening certainly has therapeutic power.  The physical therapist at Stoddard, Michael Kramer, was highly supportive and interested in the garden.  On our planting day, he was the first staff member to plant in the garden, along with his patient Ms. Farley, who was the first resident to work with us in the garden.  I had an interesting conversation with Michael about the ways gardening can help in rehabilitation.  Gardening involves a variety of physical activities, ranging from the fine motor skills used to harvest herbs, to the gross motor skills of digging and watering.  I look forward to continuing a dialogue with Michael about how the garden, and by extension Everybody Grows, can be of assistance in his work with his patients.IMG_0090

 

I had another interesting conversation about the therapeutic power of gardening with deputy fire chief David Foust.  We talked about how firefighters work long shifts, and how their vital work can often be stressful and intense.  We discussed the potential of the garden to help enhance mindfulness and offer a temporary relief.  I know that in my work as a teacher the garden serves this role.  Leaving the classroom behind and leading a small group to work in the garden can be be a welcome change for me and for my students.  When we return to the classroom, we are refreshed and ready to learn and play.

 

I also want to share a recommendation for a book, called Accessible Gardening: Tips and Techniques for Seniors and the Disabled by Joann Woy that a staff member at Stoddard, Linda Ripley, shared with us.  Thanks to all of our gardening partners for generously teaching us about their fields!