This article was written by KCCG’s Program Director, Andrea Mathew and was featured in the 2017 April edition of KC Gardener.
If you talked to my dad for any length of time about vegetable gardening, he would probably delight you with the story of how I, at the age of three, ate a whole row of radishes right out of the garden (radishes are still my favorite vegetable). Like many life-long gardeners, I grew up helping with (playing in) my family’s vegetable garden and although I didn’t always appreciate the significance, these experiences formed the foundation of my passion for growing food.
When I came to work at Kansas City Community Gardens nine years ago, I was excited to pair my love of gardening with my desire to serve people. Although I had some vegetable gardening skills and a basic knowledge of seed and plant varieties, I was completely unaware of all the gardening methods and interesting plant varieties available. The knowledgeable staff at KCCG had spent many years curating a wonderful collection of fun and interesting seeds for our Beanstalk Children’s Garden. As I developed our Schoolyard Gardens program we started to use these “specialty” seeds more and more. Varieties like ‘Easter Egg’ radish, ‘Dragon Tongue’ bean, ‘Baby Bottle’ gourd and ‘Canasta’ lettuce are now staples in 200+ Schoolyard Gardens across the city.
Since starting to garden with my own three sons, I have found that seed varieties with interesting characteristics increase my own children’s engagement in our garden. After growing ‘Rainbow Blend’ carrots, we will never grow just orange carrots again. My kids take ‘Benary Giant’ zinnas to their teachers and dare visitors to taste the ‘Ruby Moon’ Purple Hyacinth Bean flowers (they taste like green beans!) or the Mouse Melon (they taste like cucumbers!). And nothing beats sitting on the front porch in the dark looking at the Moonflowers.
I spent my youngest years living on 40 acres of land in rural Michigan where I spent most of my time running around outside. My own kids are daily enticed by electronic devices to stay inside to “play”. Making the garden as fun as possible helps me to engage them in the garden. Last year I was excited to be part of the launch of KCCG’s specialty seed line – Beanstalk Seeds. This seed collection features fun, easy to grow seeds that are perfect for growing a magical garden.
These seeds are available in KCCG’s office in Swope Park and at www.beanstalkseeds.com. The Beanstalk Seeds website features how-to resources for growing vegetables as well as fun facts and recipes for each seed variety. And all proceeds from the sales of Beanstalk Seeds support KCCG’s mission of helping low-income families and community groups grow food.
As it is now time to kick of another gardening year, I encourage you to consider growing a magical garden with your kiddos (or, for yourself!).