Spring is an exciting time for all gardeners. Charlene Veenendaal shares her passion for gardening with the youngest generation of budding gardeners as the facilitator of the Junior Garden Club in Carman.

The Junior Gardener Club is for ages 6-12. The club embraces dirty hands, growing flowers and vegetables, and creating community. Veenendaal shared what children can expect as a part of the club.

“We meet three or four times in summer. We have one meeting where they get all of their plants and seeds before they get their plants and seeds. We'll do a craft. This year we're going to grow lettuce in a milk jug. We'll talk about planning the garden, where…to put [the] garden, we talk about growing taller plants, and we talk about what to do when things don't go the way you planned”.

Members of the Junior Gardener Club receive a mentor from the affiliated Adult Garden Club. This mentor provides insight and guidance in garden planning. Because the club chooses the mentors locally, they are always nearby to help monitor the progress of the gardens.

Young gardener.

In addition to passing down valuable growing knowledge to children, the Junior Gardener Club also strives to nurture gardening within the family. Veenendaal considers this intergenerational angle of the club one of the most rewarding parts of it: “These kids can grow with their siblings or with their parents or their grandparents or whomever they come with. And I just love seeing that.”

The Junior Gardener Club is well established in the community. According to Veenendaal, there are “members of the Adult Garden Club who were members of the Junior Garden Club 30 years ago, maybe longer.” Veenendaal sees the junior club as “an opportunity for us to foster that love of growing with the youngsters” and hopes that “in 20 years, they're going to be members of the Adult Garden Club”, too.

Most importantly, the children are enthusiastic about watching their new knowledge manifest in successful plants and gardens. Veenendaal says that the club “[has] kids that always get excited about how big their zucchini is, or, they find carrots shaped weird. We grow cherry tomatoes, and that's always an exciting one, because often they're much taller than these children. The bigger the better for these kids.”

Charlene’s daughter Tirzah, age 8, will be starting her third year in the garden club. Tirzah’s favorite vegetable to grow is corn, “because it’s yummy when you pick it”. 

According to Tirzah, the secret to growing good corn is to “water it, plant it early, and sing to it”. It's never too early to draw on the knowledge of the future gardeners getting their start at the Junior Gardener Club in Carman.

Ultimately, Veenendaal is happy to see children getting back to nature: “I love that these kids are outside, getting dirty. And they're enjoying seeing how their food is being grown. And you get kids who are scared of bees, right. They are learning that bees are our friends. We want them in our garden. And we can live together with the bees. It's a really cool thing to see what these kids are learning .”

Learn more about the Carman Junior Gardener Club here.