Youth gardening team blossoms at Cumberland Pool

Kira Cicerchi, Maeve Ialacci and Dessa Zekic, members of the Cumberland Gardening Team, stand among their tomato plants. [Photo courtesy Danial Budin.]

Patrons of Cumberland Pool have been greeted this summer with a new sight—a thriving vegetable garden. Formerly a rose garden and, in more recent summers, an empty patch of mulch, the new vegetable garden runs along the fence on the south side of the pool, between the parking lot and the pool deck.

The garden was planted and is tended by the first-ever Cumberland Gardening Team, consisting of 15 children working with four or five adults every Monday morning. The children, who are involved in swimming or diving classes at Cumberland, were interested in improving the sunny enclosure near the pool. Team members keep journals setting forth the topic of the day, such as photosynthesis, parts of plants, nutrition, pollination and composting. The children answer questions or draw pictures in their journals and then spend time gardening and working on crafts. The crafts have included making sun prints and nutrition placemats, and printing T-shirts featuring vegetable images.

The final activity of each session involves eating some of the fresh vegetables and learning more about them from books provided by the local library and the Cleveland Botanical Garden. The main goals of the program are to have fun and eat fresh vegetables, but because most of the adults were teachers, the program is educational as well.

Joanne Westin suggested the creation of a garden at Cumberland to Susanna Niermann O'Neil, acting city manager, who enthusiastically supported the idea. Westin then recruited Karen Reinke, Kathie Ellis, Margy Weinberg and Anne Caruso, all of whom had worked on a similar gardening program at Noble Road Presbyterian Church.

The City of Cleveland Heights Public Works Department rototilled the enclosure to prepare the soil for the garden, and the Parks and Recreation Department publicized the program to Cumberland children. Bremec’s on the Heights donated plants, potting soil and mulch; the Case Western Reserve University Farm donated plants and seeds; Home Depot donated a watering can and tomato cages; and a grant from the Ohio State Cooperative extension bought planters, a composter and a rain barrel.

With the garden now flourishing, Westin said the most common question she hears at the pool is, “Who will get all the vegetables?” The answer is that the children who planted, weeded and watered the garden will also enjoy its bounty. So far, they have harvested and consumed pea pods, green peppers and an abundance of Swiss chard. Beans, corn, tomatoes, eggplant, carrots, beets, zucchini, and cucumbers are all coming up soon.

Daniel Budin

Daniel Budin is a lifelong resident of Cleveland Heights and a member of the FutureHeights Board of Directors.

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Volume 5, Issue 8, Posted 1:47 PM, 07.31.2012