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On MLK Day, Young learn benefits of container gardening


Elena Ibirra did not mind getting her hands dirty Monday morning.

Nor did Kylee Bates.

Or Lari Alejandro, Joanna Singleton and Alexandra Sanchez.

It was part of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s National Day of Service Project -- learning about container gardening, a simple, economical way to feed not only themselves, but, more importantly, others who might be in need.

“This is ideal for families in the area who are struggling,” said Heather Kushner, one of the AmeriCorps 20/20 VISTA Vision volunteers on hand. “It’s important to be able to build your own self-sustaining garden.” The 23-year-old Bowling Green State University graduate grew zucchini, beets, spinach and other vegetables as an undergrad.

“I didn’t have enough money to buy food, but I never had a shortage of food,” said the native of Mentor, Ohio.

The principal tools VISTA volunteers were demonstrating were a pair of 5-gallon buckets -- one placed inside the other -- a length of inch-wide PVC pipe, and an 8-ounce plastic cup.

They also showed how to use seedling starter trays -- cardboard containers with egg cups for soil and flower seeds that are biodegradable.

According to VISTA’s Jeff Vitiello, the bucket garden works like this:

n Drill one small drainage hole in the outer or bottom bucket.

n Drill several similar drainage holes in the bottom of the inner bucket, plus a hole wide enough to fit the 8-ounce cup as well as the PVC pipe.

n The cup will also require several drainage holes, since it acts as a wick -- a piece of material that conveys water by capillary action.

n Fill the inner bucket with dirt 2-3 inches from the top, plant vegetable seeds and pour water into the PVC pipe.

“One of the really great things about it is you can put them anywhere,” said Vitiello, a 23-year-old New College graduate.

“You don’t need land, you don’t need a plot. It can be on your balcony or it can be on your doorstep. In a couple of months, you should have something to eat.”

Lari Alejandro and her Ringling College classmates definitely learned something Monday.

“We never knew about being able to grow vegetables out of a bucket,” she said.

That was what Rosalia Holmlund was trying to show the neighborhood children she brought Monday morning.

“They will know how to grow their own food, which is a big help for them and their families,” said the businesswoman. “It’s a good lesson for them.”

The younger children were also fascinated by the seedling starter trays.

“I like that you can do it yourself and you don’t need a lot of help on it,” Kylee Bates said.

Elena Ibirra was busy planting seeds for sunflowers

“So I can wear one in my hair,” she said.

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055.