By Charlotte Luke
This summer, the Dig and Grow area of the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia bursts with delicious colors and smells: purple, red, and yellow stalks of chard, fragrant leaves of basil, tiny tomatoes budding from their vines, kale curling out of the soil.
More than 1,000 edible plants grown from seed by the Garden’s greenhouse manager, Melanie Parker, were planted in January 2018. Today, Dig and Grow is a thriving source of fresh vegetables and herbs and an important opportunity for “children [to] learn at an early age that vegetables don’t come from the grocery store originally,” said Ann Frierson, an advisory board member of the Botanical Garden for three decades.
But in addition to providing an “edible gardening experiential learning gallery,” said Cora Keber, Director of Education at the Botanical Garden, Dig and Grow provides fresh produce for people in the Athens community.
After the grand opening of the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden in March, the Botanical Garden partnered with Campus Kitchen, a student-run hunger relief program of the UGA Office of Service-Learning. Specifically, much of the produce grown in the Dig and Grow area of the Children’s Garden supports Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, a program through Campus Kitchen in which participants receive pre-made meals and a bag of fresh produce each week.
“We have donated hundreds of pounds of produce since opening in March and will continue to provide to our community whether it be through tasting in the garden, our programs or meals and produce provided by Campus Kitchen,” said Ms. Keber.
Dig and Grow and the Botanical Garden cultivate food and educational experiences, but Ann Frierson said she also envisions the Garden as a nice escape for visitors.
“The beauty of this garden is that it exposes people to nature which is becoming something harder and harder to experience as we become a concrete jungle, and to be able to get out within nature is critical to everyone’s state of mind.”
The grounds of the State Botanical Garden of Georgia are open Monday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission and parking are free.