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Pass It Forward

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What’s your first memory of planting something and watching it grow? Did your mother make you pull weeds in the garden, or help you gather eggs, tomatoes or flowers? I remember making a hill of soil in the garden and planting squash seeds, then seeing the sprouts and plants growing each day. Amazing! I remember pulling Bermuda grass from the rose beds and not being happy about that at all! But working with my mother then brings happy memories now. What do we pass on to others, and what difference does it make?

My children gardened with me and, usually pretty reluctantly, pulled weeds from our gardens. We’ve always had a garden of some kind, even in our apartment in Berkeley. We created a little garden back of the units (turns out tomatoes don’t really like that coastal climate, but lemongrass thrives). I wouldn’t say that our kids obviously loved gardening, but now, in their thirties, both are avid growers of cacti, flowers and even vegetables. It amazes me! We made a difference.

What we do with others, especially children, is powerful! Working with youth, planting a vegetable garden, you hear things like “My grandmother told me that you always make a hill when planting squash!” Or “My mother and I would go along the hills near our house and pick blackberries and bring them home. They were SO good!” Walking through a preschool, the children would show me the little radishes coming up in the cups that the teachers had helped them plant. And one of my neighbor’s little girls showed me the mini pond environment that she’d made with her mom for the pollywogs! These are lifetimes memories and they’ll pass on through generations.

We show others in little ways how to care for the earth, how fun it is to get a little dirty. Sharing time and conversations, stories, knowledge and hope:

• Creating a new Eagle Scout trail near Boonville, California, where we moved wild iris off the path and replanted them. Memories of poison oak, but the irises live on!
• Planting flowers with the church youth group provided a legacy for the young and twenty years of blooming enjoyment.
• Picking okra with my grandmother for dinner (not my favorite), but it’s an interesting plant and a fond memory.
• Working with youth planting the vegetables that they request and learning with them. Hot peppers that I cannot handle, but lots of teasing and laughter. The hotter the pepper the longer the time to maturity! Who knew?
• Passing on the miracle of a little seed coming up from the earth and growing into a giant pumpkin. I’ll remember that for a long time!
• And then there’s the UCCE Master Gardeners’ Demonstration Garden on the Dario Cassina High School campus in Sonora where gardeners pass on their love and knowledge of gardening.
Teachers, preschool, 4H, youth group, community gardens, UCCE Master Gardeners…people sharing their love of plants, growing good healthy food for the table, sharing with neighbors and getting vitamin D in the process. What lessons we are able to share and pass on. Peace, good will, tiny miracles, engagement, community and expanding our knowledge and love for one another. Pass it on!

Nancy Bliss is a University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener of Tuolumne County.