Gardening increasingly is used a therapy for troubled people. Plants and people can enjoy a symbiotic relationship. Simply put, green-thumb activities can help cure the blues. Inmates, victims of abuse, people with disabilities, and others are learning what many gardeners have known all along: getting into the garden tends not only the plants, but also the person.
Last year, on assignment for The Denver Post, I visited Excelsior Youth Center in Aurora, Colorado, where volunteers from Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado teamed up with Girl Sprouts–many who have known sexual, emotional, or physical abuse as well as addiction, self-harm, and other woes. Here’s a link to my article about how girls who suffered turmoil found hope and healing through gardening: “Healing in a garden: Colorado school for troubled girls reaps gift”
And here’s an update on the garden, the girls, and the professional landscaper volunteers.
Thanks to Becky Garber in the communications department of Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado for this guest post:
Two groups of volunteers who share a passion for all things growing joined forces on Earth Day, April 22, to benefit the Girl Sprouts student group at Excelsior Youth Center, Aurora. This is the second year in a row when members of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado teamed up with community volunteers affiliated with the school to develop an edibles garden for the school’s population of at-risk teenage girls.
Garden provides common ground
This garden has literally become common ground among an otherwise disparate team of amateur gardeners and landscape pros. They worked side-by-side shoveling soil into wheelbarrows, creating garden paths and patios and installing wooden arbors that will soon grow grapes. Collectively, they all know the benefits of working outdoors and the payoff of tasting a home-grown carrot or tomato. They also know that working in the dirt is one great therapy to regain your lost self.
Girls with troubled pasts find healing in garden
Many of Excelsior’s students have experienced sexual and physical abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, and emotional issues. The school is a haven of last resort for many, according to administrators. The school provides many avenues for activity and therapy along with its academic programs. But its garden area had seen better days when neighbors of the school took note. Some of them, who had previously come together in the last presidential campaign, needed a new cause which soon became the disheveled garden on the back side of Excelsior’s campus.
Female landscapers serve as role models
After a couple years of hard work, they approached the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado (ALCC) and asked for help. Contractors – many of them women who had also emerged from abusive situations – responded not just to get the job done, but to be role models of what women can do in what many perceive as a male-only industry.
Bright women, some with degrees in subjects like landscape architecture, came out to run a tractor, push heavy wheelbarrows full of soil and staple landscape fabric onto the ground. And they also showed through their efforts that women can also work effectively – and without fear – alongside men in camaraderie and fun.
Defending against drought
This year, the pros chose to focus their efforts on projects that are good to do in a drought year. “Building a deer fence to protect the garden from wildlife, erecting proper grape arbors and installing decorative patios and stone seating benches will require no additional water in this year’s garden,” according to ALCC’s team leader Michael Moore. “Without using even one drop of water, these upgrades leave the garden more protected, attractive and functional.”
The single planting area that was developed will soon be planted with low-water perennials. By properly amending and tilling the soil and installing drip irrigation ahead of time, the contractors insured a garden that once established will use minimal water for years to come.
The end of another Earth Day at Excelsior again left young people with more opportunities to connect with nature and to experience first-hand that after the sweat of weeding comes the joy of a just-picked salad. As to the volunteers, they agreed their day ended with a sense of a job well done that’s about a whole lot more than the job itself. — Becky Garber, Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado
For more information about Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado: www.alcc.com.
••• “Cultivate your corner of the world.
You grow your garden; your garden grows you.” •••
• Colleen Smith’s gift book “Laid-Back Skier” makes a sweet Easter gift! This whimsical, inspirational book includes lots of ski bunnies and encouragement for life’s ups and downs. Watch “Laid-Back Skier’s” brief YouTube video here.
• Colleen Smith’s first novel, “Glass Halo”—a finalist for the 2010 Santa Fe Literary Prize — is available in hardcover or e—book.
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