A children’s mentoring ministry project is flourishing thanks to a little help from God.
The Pratt Presbyterian Church’s “Eagle Wings Ministry” is a gardening program for children from third to sixth grade who have a need for another adult friend, said the Rev. Steve Wing, pastor of the Presbyterian Church.
The project is located in a lot just north of the church parking lot. Several planting beds were built with volunteer labor and filled with dirt from the Stull barn, said Carol Stull, director of Eagle Wings Ministry.
When they were getting the beds ready, they found slabs of concrete that probably belonged to a house. It took a lot of work to get the concrete cleared and get down to the dirt. It took about three months to get the beds together and the group didn’t really get going until spring.
A $500 grant from South Central Community Foundation provided lumber for the raised garden beds. Stull wants to apply for another grant to run a water line closer to the garden.
Most of seeds and plants were donated to the project. It took a lot of work to get the project started but everyone has enjoyed the outcome.
“It was a big deal getting it all done this year,” Stull said.
The did get a $200 donation that was used for sprinklers, soaker hose and a birdbath.
The children worked with mentors as they planted, watered and weeded the beds while God provided a lot of the water.
The beds are set up so the crops rotate among the boxes. It takes four years to do a complete cycle.
Stull said they didn’t use fertilizer in the garden but the soil from her barn had lots of manure in it so the plants have grown very well.
Also helping with the project were boys from Pratt Couty Achievement Place who live across the street from the garden. They help care for the garden and get to harvest some of the produce for their efforts.
The mentors meet with their protégés once a week for two hours. The children plant vegetables, watered the plants and in general found out how to build and maintain a garden.
The garden was chosen because it would be beneficial to the children and their families. It taught them how to garden and provide fresh produce for the families.
The children and families have enjoyed the garden and have benefited from the experience.
With all the rain, the garden has flourished. The garden has tomatoes, green beans and other varieties, peas, watermelon, turnips, spinach, potatoes, peppers, onions, peanuts, parsley, chives, basil and one box dedicated to flowers, Wing said.
While each of the plants has grown well, the tomato plants have outdone themselves and are well over six feet tall. Families that participate in the project are allowed to harvest the produce. At first, some families were reluctant to pick the produce but now that they are used to it and are enjoying the results.
Next year, the participants will get together and talk about what worked and what didn’t as they plan what items they will plant in 2015. They got a late start this year and didn’t have lettuce, carrots or radishes so hopefully they will get those next year.
Stull is an Extension Master Gardener, as are two other congregation members, Kathy Stewart and Jan Luttrell. They were very helpful in planning what plants would go onto the garden, Wing said.
The tomatoes are just now starting to set on but there should be a lot once they get going because there are a lot of blossoms. Stull is anxious to harvest peanuts. The plants are big and the leaves have to turn yellow before they will be ready.
While the produce is eaten, the trimmings are used for compost for next year.
Some people have contacted Stull and asked her about the project and have expressed an interest in starting similar gardens in other locations around town.