Partnership yields winning produce
Each team is given six tomato plants, six pepper plants and a pack of seeds.
BY GAIL WHITE
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
BOARDMAN -- "We won again!" Lori Allan said with disbelief and delight as the winners of the best tomatoes were announced at the Good Natured Garden Partners awards presentation.
Since May, nine families from St. Luke's School in Boardman have been working the soil in a small area behind the school where they planted a garden.
They call themselves the St. Luke's Gardeners, and they are one of 13 growing teams that entered the Good Natured Garden Partners, a collaborative effort of the Ohio State University Extension, Jubilee Gardens and the Raymond John Wean Foundation.
The winners were announced Wednesday.
How it starts
"We have our kickoff in May," said Barbara DeLisio, program assistant for the garden program. "Each team is given six tomato plants, six pepper plants and a pack of sunflower, pumpkin and zucchini seeds."
The growing teams then went to work, planting their seeds and starter plants and maintaining their gardens all summer.
"During the school year the kids took care of the garden under the supervision of the school nurse," Allan said.
When school let out for the summer, the team created a strategy to maintain their garden.
"We all picked a day," Lanore Jones said. "Each night of the week, one family would come and water the garden."
"It was a lot of fun!" Allan said, beaming.
"There were a lot of water fights," said Jones' daughter, Lucy.
Allan's daughter, Rachel, admitted that the part she disliked the most was weeding.
All agreed that it was amazing to come each week and see how their plants had grown.
"When you go one day a week, you go back the next week and it is like, wow!" Allan said of one of her youth growers.
Meanwhile, in Youngstown, at the Brier Hill Community Gardening Site, the Black Knights growing team was busy at work on their site.
Under the direction of Barbara Copeland, a Black Knights community officer, and Sandra Bowman, the team planted more than just the vegetables provided by the Garden Partners.
"We planted cantaloupe and watermelon," said 8-year-old Taylor Robinson.
"And corn and onions and cabbage," Jaylynn Powell, 9, added.
Ten-year-old Kendra Allen, holding three tomatoes she just picked from her garden, said, "We grew zucchini, and Sandra made bread out of it. I never had zucchini bread."
"We fried up some squash," Jaylynn said. "We eat tomato sandwiches."
The girl's advisers look at the children's enthusiasm and smile.
"We always try to do things with kids in the neighborhood," said DeLisio.
"A lot of kids don't know a lot about gardening. It's kind of a dying trend," she said.
The Black Knights team met several nights a week at their neighborhood garden area to weed and water their plants.
"We give them water and fertilizer," Jaylynn said.
"We rake and pull weeds," Taylor continued.
With a tone of urgency in her voice, Jaylynn added, "Yeah! Because the weeds will choke the plants!"
She found the onions to be the most difficult to weed.
"Its hard to tell what's the plant and what's a weed," she said.
After all their hard work, the 13 growing teams met Wednesday afternoon to present the fruits of their labor. The produce was judged by members of the Youngstown Men's Garden Club. The prizes reflected the hard work of the teams: $50 for first place, $30 for second and $20 for third, awarded in the form of gift certificates.
"We tell them to bring their biggest and their best," said DeLisio. "It may not look like it will win, but bring it anyway. You never know."
Prizes were awarded for the tallest sunflower, best plate of peppers, best tomatoes, largest pumpkin and largest zucchini.
As shouts of joy rang out from the crowd with the announcement of each winner, it was evident these growing teams were excited about more than the prizes they were receiving. With the dirt still hiding under their fingernails as proof of their hard work, their a sense of pride and accomplishment was obvious.