My 4-year-old was so proud of the egg-carton garden full of tiny sprouts he planted at school. He wanted to plant them immediately on the day he brought them home. Unfortunately the front yard is the only place where we get adequate sun for growing vegetables. “Wonder if the neighbors would mind squash and watermelon plants running wild for all to see?” I thought. I’m still not sure what their reaction would have been but I did love reading about the neighborhood gardening club started by one California family in the May 2011 issue of my FamilyFun magazine subscription.
After losing a beloved old oak tree, the Walker family wondered what to do with their newly sunny patch of grass. A neighbor thought it might make the perfect vegetable plot, and an idea was born. Starting with pumpkins (because they’re easier to grow, maybe?), this family started learning all about the ins and outs of home gardens. The interest caught on among other houses on their street and soon they were all cultivating their green thumbs.
“Whether it was the faltering economy, the desire to eat healthier foods, or the chance to get the kids away from electronic gadgetry and into the fresh air, we weren’t sure, but suddenly the whole neighborhood seemed to be bitten by the gardening bug at the very same time,” writes Lynn Bowen Walker.
In the spirit of fun, they decided to have a contest: Which family could grow the best pumpkin? After distributing seeds and contest information around the block, they “did what all gardeners do: We waited.” The competition sparked many conversations and got neighbors who might not have known each other well talking in the streets about their different growing tricks.
When the pumpkins were ready for harvest, the neighborhood had a simple party in one neighbor’s driveway one Saturday afternoon to judge the results. They gave prizes (dollar-store finds in lunch bags decorated with pumpkin stickers) and invited everyone to wear orange.
“It turns out that it’s just plain nice to know the folks who live nearby–to be aware of who is on vacation and would welcome a little neighborly watchfulness; to be able to make newcomers feel at home; and yes, to swap fertilizer information.”
I think it’s a terrific idea. I see a tomato-growing contest in my street’s future.