ANDERSON—How does your garden grow?
Five students from St. Joseph School in Anderson know the answer to that question and many more when it comes to creating beautiful gardens.
The rising sixth-graders are the first in Anderson County to receive their certification as Junior Master Gardeners. To qualify, they had to complete two years of study on a wide variety of gardening topics, complete projects at school and at home, and take part in a gardening service project.
The five who received certificates at a special ceremony held in May are Lacy DeSimone, Matthew Kahler, Andrea Rendino, William Schenk and Gabriella Waters.
Seven other children who participated in the Junior Master Gardener class were Sean Davis, Scott Edwards, Colton Herron, Victoria Kellogg, Mac McElveen, Mary Frances Smith and Zach Tumminelle. They received certificates of participation and a 4-H pin.
The Junior Master Gardener program at St. Joseph was coordinated by the Anderson County Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service.
Two certified Master Gardeners, Patricia Cobb and Dee LeMay, who are also parishioners at St. Joseph, taught the course.
Cobb said she and LeMay started in April 2009, teaching both fourth- and fifth-graders. Cobb is a retired teacher and wanted to share her love of gardening with young people.
To complete the course, students had to work through nine chapters in a special Junior Master Gardener handbook, which is similar in structure to those used by Boy and Girl Scouts. The Extension Service donated the handbooks.
“Every week we introduced a new lesson, and then it was up to the students to take the handbook home and complete individual activities,” Cobb said.
Pupils had to complete 25 or more lessons, and either a teacher or parent had to approve each one.
The youth dug into lots of topics, including soil and plant nutrition, pesticides and insects, composting, vegetable and fruit production, plant physiology, and landscape design. Cobb said local master gardeners helped the students with hands-on tasks such as starting a compost pile and collecting insects.
For their service project, participants refurbished a Carolina Fence Garden, which had been planted on campus several years ago, but had since become overgrown.
Carolina Fence Gardens feature plants and other items native to South Carolina, and are designed to provide habitats for native birds, insects and animals.
They helped redesign the garden, clear weeds, and added new flowers and other plants.
“The kids got out there and worked their hands and fingers to the bone,” Cobb said. “They really loved working on the fence garden, and the whole program was just a wonderful experience. The kids were very receptive.”
Kathy Wright, Anderson County extension agent, said the Junior Master Gardener program offers students a chance to develop academic skills, and learn about the importance of the environment and other lessons that can last a lifetime.
“Gardening is something kids love to do, and it’s a great way to teach children science, math, and just the basics of how to get along in this world,” Wright said. “The hope is that we would also instill a love of gardening in the kids. We might get a scientist or an engineer or two out of the group, and we also hope we get folks that just fall in love with the basic mechanics of gardening.”
The newly certified Junior Master Gardeners and their parents all gave the program high marks.
“It was great to see my daughter planting things, working with her friends, seeing how things grow and transform into something really beautiful,” said Lourie Rendino. “I’m also big on going green and doing something for the environment, and this program really helped her to learn about that.”
“My favorite thing was the fence garden, learning how to plant everything for it and making sure it was looking good for everybody,” Andrea Rendino, 11, said.
For her, the most challenging part of the program was learning how to place plants correctly so they each receive the appropriate amount of light and moisture.
Christy Schenk said her son William, 11, was so excited about what he learned that he and his father Dennis planted their own Carolina Fence Garden in their yard.
“This was a good way to get back to nature, to slow down and just get a new appreciation for it,” she said. “I’ve always enjoyed gardening and it was great to see my son so excited about it. He learned that you have to take time and nurture something, and then you see the wonderful results from it.”
“I think I’m going to keep on gardening at my house now that I have my certificate,” William said. “It’s a hobby for me now. It makes me feel good about myself when I see the things I’ve planted grow.”