In the children's area of Newton Public Library there is a table that starts the day filled with garden produce — tomatoes, cucumbers and squash. For a small donation, library patrons can take home fresh garden goodies grown by participants in children's reading program this summer.
The children involved in the planting and maintaining the first “Children's Garden” were all between the ages of five and eight, supervised by librarian Amy Bayes and a pair of teenage volunteers.
“They planted carrots and radishes, and they planted them too deep,” Bayes said. “They are just now coming up. I explained it to them, and I wanted them to learn about that. If did it, who cares and what is the point?”
They also planted flowers, tomatoes, cucumbers and squash. Those veggies are making their way to the table in the basement in the days and weeks to come.
The funds raised, which will continue to be collected as long as the small garden northwest of the library entrance produces veggies, will be donated to a local charity — voted on by the kids who helped plant the garden.
This is the first year of the children's garden at the library, a project born out of the mind of Bayes who was thinking about activities to go with this summer's reading theme of “Build a Better World.”
“A lot of it was about nature and gardening, and I love to garden,” Bayes said. “We had the perfect spot — it is small, and it is enclosed so I don't have to worry about kids running out in the street or anything.”
With the blessing of library leadership and the city parks department, a plot was dedicated for a garden. A sign was created by the Harvey County Maker's Club and Those Blasted Signs. About a dozen kids signed up for the Tuesday reading program, and helped plant the garden. They tended it for eight weeks, watching their seedlings grow, weeding and watering the garden.
They planted several different vegetables — though rabbits helped themselves to the green bean patch — put up sun catchers and installed a “fairy house” in the garden.
After a hot June, the garden is now starting to produce. Tuesday there were green tomatoes, some cucumbers and zucchini on the plants.
“Our tomatoes are just now getting ready,” Bayes said. “I told the kids I would keep it going, and we will see how much (money we raise) and I will let them know that.”
Bayes said next year she plans to plant some of the garden earlier — before the summer reading program begins.
“I think the kids will like to harvest,” Bayes said. “They didn't complain, they were cool about everything and we just had a great time.”