Junior Master Gardeners: Learning to growMyKaila Muckenhirn has an eggplant in her garden. The 12-year-old grew it just because she thought it sounded interesting.
By: Emily Zimmer, Rosemount Town Pages
MyKaila Muckenhirn has an eggplant in her garden. The 12-year-old grew it just because she thought it sounded interesting.
A big purple fruit hangs off the plant and she is waiting for the day it will be ready to pick.
“As soon as I pick it, I’m gonna try it,” said Muckenhirn.
While she’s eaten eggplant before, Muckenhirn said she’s excited to eat one that came from her very own garden.
Muckenhirn, who will enter seventh grade this year, participates in the Dakota County Junior Master Gardeners program held at the University of Minnesota Research and Display gardens in southeast Rosemount. This is her first year with the program and in addition to her eggplant she has grown peas, beans and tomatoes.
Muckenhirn and 11 other budding green thumbs meet every Tuesday through the summer to tend to their 6 x 6 plots and to learn about gardening. The group started meeting May 26 and will continue through early September.
At the beginning of the summer the group of kids, ranging in age from 8 to 13, learned about raising plants from seeds, composting and other valuable growing tips. As the summer has gone on the group also has learned about nutrition, which is this year's theme.
John Zweber, one of the master gardeners leading the group, said the kids get to choose from a list what they want to plant in their garden. After spending an hour tending to their gardens, the kids do activities and learn about a variety of topics.
With the theme this year being nutrition the class has focused on how to make healthful decisions including getting to taste test vegetables and learning how to read food labels.
“I have definitely eaten more fresh foods this summer.” Muckenhirn said.
This is the seventh summer the master gardeners have offered the program. In past years the program was held on Tuesday mornings. This year it has been held during the evenings, which Zweber said has been a good switch because there are a lot more master gardeners on hand to help and to offer advice.
Zweber said the Junior Master Gardeners program has been successful over the years and always has a waiting list.
Logan Middleton, who has gardened with the program for four summers, said learning about nutrition has been neat but mostly he just likes to grow things. The avid gardener said he enjoys getting and eating the produce from his plants. In his plot he planted peas, yellow squash, string beans, leaf lettuce, tomatoes, peppers and chives.
The veteran of the group, Middleton said he has learned many skills that help him have successful gardens through the program. He takes those skills home, where he also has a garden.
This is Middleton’s last summer with the Junior Master Gardeners. Middleton said he believed he would garden for his life.
While he likes to grow different vegetables, Middleton admitted he doesn’t like to eat everything he produces. He said he likes string beans the best and the stuff he doesn’t care for he gives away to family and friends.
Erica Trojack also admitted that she doesn’t eat everything she grows.
“I don’t like tomatoes,” she said.
The daughter of a master gardener, Trojack said she enjoys growing veggies her family enjoys, especially carrots, which she said are her favorite. She also said she likes to see the differences in how the plants grow.
LaVonne Loerch, a master gardener who volunteers with the program, said she hopes participating in the program will influence the kids to make healthier decision throughout their lives.
“I know I’ve never taken a class or read a book that I haven’t taken something away from and I choose to believe that it will go the same for them,” said Loerch.
A retired teacher, Loerch said she likes watching the kids have success with their gardens. She added that the seeds and plants the kids chose from are selected because the plants have high success rates.
“I have a lot of fun working with the little guys,” she said.
For more information on the program contact the Dakota County University of Minnesota Extension Agency at 651-480-7700.