If you head down US 421 from Clinton to the Cooperative Extension office, odds are you might find someone outside working in the garden and green house across the street.
“We have several different things going on,” said Amanda Bradshaw, 4H Extension agent, who works on youth development and spends much of her time working in the teaching garden.
“The teaching garden is where Teen Court and Restitution kids come,” explained Bradshaw. The garden area has raised beds as well as shaded picnic tables, a compost bin, sinks for washing up, and a greenhouse.
“We teach (them) life lessons on how to produce for themselves, so they can if they need to,” she detailed. The teaching area is Sampson County specific which means that students who come to learn about gardening and growing are learning about plants indigenous to the area.
“We talk about what is under and above ground,” said Bradshaw. The “Garden on the Grow” also hosts young students from pre-school to third grade on a regular basis.
“Students learn about plant identification and the needs of a plant,” said Bradshaw. “It’s in line with their standard course of study.” She also said that the students will learn about things like insects, and why they are important in the garden.
“The students get to plant two cups with seeds,” Bradshaw added. “They plant a squash and a sunflower seed to take home.” The new plantings get placed in beverage boxes with lids which she said allows the kids to take them home with them on the bus.
“It allows them to grow and see what happens, plus they are pretty hard to kill,” said Bradshaw. “They also get to measure it as it grows.” Students also get to check out the greenhouse, which she said is a great teaching area if the weather is bad. Often it can be really hot, and having the picnic tables in the shade allows them to use all the area for workshops and have a cool place to relax.
“The Master Gardeners use the greenhouse too sometimes,” she added. “Maybe they need to get some size on something before they move it to their house or it gets sold.” This is the second full year that the 4H garden has been out there she said.
She also mentioned that she gets two to three calls a week from people wanting information about how to build their raised beds.
“Raised beds are good for the elderly or those with no space,” explained Bradshaw. “They can sit on the edge to garden.” One box could be enough for a whole family if it is planted right.
“People stop in or call all the time because they are so user friendly for both kids and adults,” she said. “I had to draw up plans.” The raised beds at the Cooperative Extension are 16’ by 4’ and take a lot of dirt to fill.
“It takes a lot of potting soil,” she said. “More than people realize.” They are large enough that it can take a dump truck to fill them so sometimes people may scale them down to an 8’ by 4’ instead. They also do not have to be built into the ground; however, if they aren’t going into the ground she recommends that they have extra reinforcement.
“The posts are in the ground here,” said Bradshaw. LC Kerr School received some boxes that were built by the high school and moved over to the elementary school she said.
“We keep something going on all the time,” Bradshaw said. “Kids need to understand food sources and what Sampson County does. Agricultural education is one of our biggest goals throughout the year.” They also often have something going on at the livestock facility at the same time as well.
Bradshaw does have some recommendations for folks looking to put in their own garden right now without experience.
“Start small and don’t plant a two acre garden,” she said. “Most importantly make sure it is near a water source.” If you don’t have sufficient space to do a raised bed or regular garden, she encourages a gardener to look towards pots.
“Make sure you have enough sun,” she added. “You need at least six hours a day.”
“Plant what you are doing to eat,” Bradshaw reminded. “It will keep you motivated to work on it.”
“Have a plan and don’t plant 20 tomato plants unless you have a use for all those tomatoes,” she said.
Amanda Bradshaw can be reached by calling the Cooperative Extension at (910) 592-7161 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org
Emily M. Hobbs can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 122 or via email at email@example.com.