Mother Earth Living

Lifelong Gardener Creates Community Children's Garden

Susanne Westerfield’s gardening zeal and love for kids lead to a thriving children’s garden in Michigan.
By Kelly Smith
March/April 2006
Add to My MSN

Susanne Westerfield received Natural Home's Earth Mover Award.
Photo By Erick J. Simons


Content Tools

Related Content

Eat Local: Sign Up For A Community Supported Agriculture Group

Give the grocery store a rest and try some fresh local food options. Check out the nearest farmer's ...

Green City Garden Girl: Farm-Fresh Ideas From the Local Farmer’s Market

Find inspiration from your local farmer’s markets and experiment with unique, fresh vegetables. Gues...

Rosemary and Gardenias: Everything You Always Wanted to Know

Ever had trouble growing rosemary outdoors, or getting it to survive past winter? Want to learn ever...

Guerilla Gardening: Operation Slippery Slope Part Two

The Guerilla Gardener continues Operation Slippery Slope in downtown Kansas City.

Susanne Westerfield is an eternal optimist and a trailblazer. A lifelong gardener, she saw the opportunity for a children’s garden adjacent to her church, near the riverwalk in West Branch, Michigan. She applied for grants and persuaded the church to donate the land, and the Riverwalk Children’s Garden was born. “I love gardening, and I love kids, and this seems like a perfect way to combine the two,” she says.

Westerfield marshaled community resources—including volunteers from the local 4-H chapter and the schools—to install the infrastructure and hardscape. She also recruited young men completing community service through the court system. “They moved rocks and told me this was the most fun they’d ever had doing community service,” she laughs.

The property owner next door allowed her to tap into his artesian well, giving crucial access to free water. Together with other community helpers, she installed water faucets and electricity, a crushed rock path, a rainwater basin and a recycling waterfall, which a local merchant designed and installed for cost. “There was a lot of structural work to be done before we could garden,” she says. “It was great for the kids, though, because they could see that things don’t always go the way they are planned.”

Westerfield and the kids plotted, planted, weeded, watered and watched the garden grow. There was also time for other activities, including a weed-pulling contest and a photo presentation of the garden that won a blue ribbon at the county fair. “One day, we got a variety of seeds and looked at them under a microscope to see how different each really is,” she says.

The kids planted a Farmer McGregor’s vegetable garden, complete with a handpainted Peter Rabbit statue. They also cultivated a tribute to the town’s “smiley face” water tower using yellow marigolds and purple salvia. A local favorite is the Wizard of Oz garden, featuring a tin man, scarecrow and yellow-brick road surrounded by red poppies. Tall sunflowers grow around the perimeter, their broad faces turning to the sun.

Westerfield envisions great things for the Riverwalk Children’s Garden, which is grown without pesticides. “I would like to try a Saturday farmers market, along with weekend programs for kids to come into the garden and work,” she says. She has particularly enjoyed watching children become aware of their environment, learn the value of volunteerism and discover the world of gardening—including its complex ecosystems of plants, soil and insects. During growing season, Westerfield is at the garden every day. “My hope is that it inspires others to garden too,” she says.








Post a comment below.

 


MY COMMUNITY
no image
valerykenery
8/29/2014 12:04:10 AM
no image
HarvestRight
8/21/2014 5:22:39 PM
no image
NatureHillsNursery
8/20/2014 10:03:07 AM
no image
NatureHillsNursery
8/20/2014 9:59:22 AM
no image
NatureHillsNursery
8/20/2014 9:30:07 AM
no image
melisastarr
8/19/2014 12:57:22 PM
no image
Peggy McMahan
8/18/2014 11:29:51 AM






Subscribe today and save 58%

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living!

Welcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $14.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $19.95.