Maryland project aims to get kids interested in gardening
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Maryland project aims to get kids interested in gardening

There’s a new fixture outside American Legion John B. Latimer Post 217 in College Park, Md.: a pizza garden, planted in part by children from the post’s Legion Family and the community.

This is the first year for the post’s youth garden program, prompted by an idea from Squadron 217 Second Vice Commander Sean Phelan.

“Last year, I worked with the city to build a pollinator garden at our post on the strip of land between us and our neighbor,” Phelan said. “This year, while maintaining that, I wanted to build a vegetable garden to provide some fresh food for our members.”

Detachment of Maryland Commander Joe Lohman and Southern Maryland Region District 5 Commander Melvin Graves inspired Phelan to turn it into a youth project.

“Melvin brought up the idea of involving the youth like I do city volunteers for my Good Neighbor Day pollinator garden,” Phelan said. “So then I was talking to Joe about it, and the idea grew and blossomed into this great event with his input, insight and suggestions.”

On April 10, seven children ranging in age from 5 to 13 were taken to the nearby University of Maryland’s Community Learning Garden. There they learned about the gardening process, sampling snap peas, discovering edible flowers, preparing the garden bed and planting radish seeds. They also learned about bees and sampled freshly picked herbs.

Back at Post 217, the kids planted their own vegetable garden, shaped and “sliced” like a pizza, with spots for tomatoes, spinach, garlic, spring onions, peppers, basil, oregano, eggplant and zucchini.

In June, the group will visit a Smithsonian garden in Washington, D.C., Phelan said.

The program “is not just about gardening — it’s about nurturing curiosity, fostering connections with nature, and creating lasting memories.”

“I enjoy gardening. It’s my hobby. I thought it would be a fun event, and maybe the youth will get interested in it. After all, it’s the perfect hobby for family bonding away from technology,” said Phelan, who credited his grandfather who “ignited my passion for gardening by introducing me to the world of potted plants and the thrill of entering shows.

“… There’s nothing quite like getting your hands dirty and watching something beautiful grow.”

While primarily an SAL program, Phelan was thankful for support from the post officers as well as College Park council members for helping with resources and manpower to build the garden area.

“This so far has been a rewarding experience for the youth and for the post,” Phelan said. “I just need to find a way to find more youth so I can grow it. … I also hope our garden can serve as a proof of concept for other posts to maybe adopt.”