Bradley County Juvenile Court is celebrating summer by inviting the public to tour its garden.
The raised bed garden is the work of the court’s Junior Master Gardeners class, made possible through a partnership with the Bradley County Master Gardeners.
On July 20 at 9 a.m., the community will be able to see the sunflowers almost ready to bloom and tomatoes beginning to ripen. They will also hear from the students who participated.
Students have also planted broccoli, lettuce, potatoes, peppers and squash.
“We are hoping to get a big harvest one of these days,” participant Caitlinn said.
Master Gardener Leslie Humberd said the garden open house would “show the community the positive part of what these kids are doing.”
“I hope that the public comes to get to listen to the children and hear what they learned and how great the program is,” Master Gardener Deborah Flower said.
Master Gardener Mike Arnold, program chair, said he has enjoyed “watching the kids change, watching them enjoy gardening.”
He said even students who seemed apathetic at first have come to enjoy harvesting vegetables, and want to take them home.
“They should be proud of themselves. They’ve done real well,” Arnold said.
Participants will officially graduate from the program during a ceremony at 11 a.m. in the Bradley County Juvenile Court Courtroom.
Each students has a main gardening bed they work on each time they come to class.
Caitlinn has been a part of the program ever since it started 23 weeks ago.
“I expected boringness, sitting in class, (talking about) plants,” she said.
However, the program was “completely different” from her expectations. Caitlinn said she has enjoyed learning about landscaping and which bugs can harm plants. Participants have also learned the best part of the country and time of year to plant certain vegetables and flowers.
“We learn about different things each time,” she said.
Her favorite parts of participating has been working in groups, “being outside and making new friends.” Being outside was also fellow participant Darren’s favorite aspect of the program.
Harvesting vegetables and fruits from the garden has also added some fun to the class.
Flower said her favorite night of the program was when they made pizza using vegetables from the garden.
“It takes a lot of patience (waiting for things to grow,” Darren said.
The Bradley County program was adapted from a curriculum used by a Master Gardener group in Texas. Humberd said they “tweaked” the program some to make it better for working with teenagers.
“With me having prior experience with teaching, I thought it was something good to do,” Humberd said. “I think the kids have learned a lot.”
Humberd has been a Master Gardener for two years.
“I wanted the kids to enjoy gardening and to see how they might be able to use it later,” Humberd said.
She also said the program provided an opportunity for the students to have positive interactions with adults and their peers.
She said the Master Gardener participation has been such that there is an almost a 1-to-1 ratio of gardener and student.
Starting out the program, Flower said she was a little nervous.
“Being a kindergarten teacher, I had never worked so closely with teenagers before,” Flower said.
She said teens have different background and issues than those her own students would face. Flower said she has been pleased with how the participants have responded to the class.
“There is nothing more therapeutic than digging in the dirt,” Flower said. “Gardening is hard work and I think that surprised them.”
The next program with start in the fall and be a shorter session than this one.
“I hope in the future we can incorporate more nutrition (education),” Arnold said.
Fall and spring sessions are planned for next school year.