Houston student Viviana Guerra slices 8-ball zucchini while being watched by Maddy Cole as the pair help prepare a spaghetti meal incorporating ingredients grown at Houston's Community Garden during last summer's inaugural MU Extension Garden 'n' Grow program. The meal was prepared and served to parents of Garden 'n' Grow kids at the Loretto House, the location of Houston's Extension office.

The University of Missouri Texas County Extension office in Houston announced plans to expand its award-winning summer program, Garden ‘n’ Grow.

Offered for the first time in Texas County last year, Garden ‘n’ Grow is designed to give young people a first-hand look at gardening, including aspects like the science behind growing crops, the math of weighing and pricing produce, and the actual production of edible vegetables.

Last year, the program lasted nine weeks and was attended by 15 kids ages 8 to 12 enrolled in the Houston Optimist Club’s after school program, each of whom learned in a class environment and by working in plots at the community garden adjacent to the MU Extension office on South Sam Houston Boulevard. Texas County’s inaugural Garden ‘n’ Grow was such a success, that several people involved in orchestrating it were named as recipients of MU Extension’s prestigious 2012 Teamwork/Internal Partnerships Award, an honor earned in the environmental science category from among all MU Extension Centers around the state.

This year’s second phase in will revolve around Houston Schools’ summer school, and take place at the Extension office Monday and Thursday afternoons in June (3:30-5 p.m.) and then switch to mornings on the same days of the week in July (9-11 a.m.).

Instructors will include Texas County Master Gardeners Caroline Nugent, Velda Cross and Celinda Castleman, and the program will be presented in partnership with First Baptist Church.

But new this year will be a Garden ‘n’ Grow program in Licking, taught by Master Gardener Bob Peterson. Texas County Extension secretary Amber Dailing said dates for Licking sessions are yet to be determined, but should be set during a meeting with all instructors scheduled for May 17. Dailing said there’s still a need for volunteers to help with both programs.

“We work on a very low budget so any type of help we can get from the community to be able to offer these programs would be greatly appreciated,” she said. “To my knowledge all programs are full, but we encourage people from the community get involved by visiting the plots, offering donations, and encouraging youth to get involved with gardening.”

All planting and growing in Garden ‘n’ Grow Programs is done according to a plan, as participants closely follow row and spacing recommendations and a curriculum designed by MU. Each row of crops is appropriately signed and labeled, and participants document their gardens’ progress in notebooks.

Last year, a final harvest of the season resulted in a collection of close to 60 pounds of produce – featuring 15 different kinds of vegetables – that was donated to the Texas County Food Pantry for distribution to needy county residents.

Other subjects covered in last year’s inaugural Houston Garden ‘n’ Grow included the process of photosynthesis, how to identify the parts of flowers, and how bugs and diseases can affect plant growth. Kids also dissected seeds to identify different parts and the role each part plays, designed and conducted experiments to identify factors that affect plant growth, learned the differences between fruits and vegetables, and even learned how to identify weeds.

“Kids were showing their parents weeds in their gardens that they didn’t even know were weeds,” Dailing said.

In addition this year, Texas County Extension will partner with Houston Elementary School to offer an “Eating from the Garden” program in June from 8:30-10:30 Tuesdays and Thursdays, which is instructed by Extension Nutrition Program Associate Dana McGuire.

For more information, call 417-967-4545.

 

The MU Extension’s Texas County office will host a 2013 grand opening for the Houston Community Garden from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 11.

Plot applications will be available, and hot dogs will be served. All growing plots are free, with water and seeds available to anyone wishing to garden who doesn’t otherwise have access to adequate space. 

The community garden project is a partnership between the Texas County Extension office, Texas County Master Gardeners and the Texas County Food Pantry.

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