When I was in college, I took a summer job leading nature investigations for kids in urban summer camps. I soon realized that I loved teaching. These days, when people ask me what I do, I usually say I’m a landscape designer. But I’m a teacher at heart.
Here are some examples of my work teaching people to care for their own landscapes.
- Community work days are one of the best ways to build a shared sense of stewardship. They’re also lots of fun! A preschooler can learn to tickle the roots of a marigold seedling and carefully plant it. Later in the week, you hear them say, “I planted that! My flower is still blooming!” School-aged kids, each armed with a bucket and a quick demo on how to spread mulch, make quick work of a towering mulch pile, and it’s a joy to behold their satisfaction as the pile gets smaller and smaller.
- At Mass Audubon’s Boston Nature Center, I lead a group of high school interns to improve play and learning spaces. As we pull weeds from a sensory garden; the Youth Leaders are amazed to learn how fast tree-of-heaven (an invasive plant) can make a 2-foot deep tap root. They’re also pleased to learn how satisfying it is to chop out a root that deep! The youth spread mulch and we discuss the similarities and differences between garden mulch and the leaves that fall under a tree in the woods. What’s the best part of working with the Youth Leaders? Most of them grew up attending programs at the Boston Nature Center. I’m teaching them to care for the spaces where they explored as children.
- In newly-installed landscapes, many clients choose to irrigate using automatic timers, whether there’s an in-ground system or a low-tech series of soaker hoses. But there’s a learning curve. First, there’s the complexities of the timers; I like to record a video showing how to make adjustments, so clients can tweak it even if I’m not there. Second, there’s the question of how much to water, which is relevant whether you’re using an automatic system or watering by hand. Rather than trying to measure the water coming out of the soakers or sprayer, a simple solution is to dig down one inch. If the soil’s dry, you probably aren’t watering enough. It’s so satisfying to teach people this trick, and it goes a long way towards ensuring that new plants will make it through those first few seasons.
At Gardens For Life, it’s a joy to teach people how to care for their own landscapes. I’m equal parts horticulture expert, cheerleader, logistical planner, and matchmaker (matching the client’s interest and capacity with the required tasks).
Gardens For Life offers expert guidance, and we’re familiar with the unique challenges of maintaining landscapes for play and learning. We can coordinate professional maintenance services, and we can also help you manage volunteer labor. Learn more about our services here.