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My Evolution as a Gardener

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Community-minded teen gardener Katie Stagliano reflects on how much she has evolved as a gardener.

Katie's brother tends the family garden.
Germinating seedlings.

"We grow by our dreams." - Woodrow T. Wilson

I love to watch my brother, John Michael, eat a slice of watermelon on a hot summer day. He carefully removes the seeds from a juicy slice of melon, places them on a napkin, and then heads out to our backyard garden with a shovel, watering can, and his seeds. He plants and watches every day to see if they will grow.

Watching my brother's actions, I realized just how much I have evolved as a gardener. There was a time not long ago when I too thought gardening was so simple, so easy, and so effortless. As I've evolved as a gardener, I've learned to have a tremendous respect for the growing process and the effort that's involved in producing a bountiful harvest.

Katie tills a garden bed.

A few years ago, I never thought about the hard work that went into the apple I ate or that head of lettuce my mother purchased from the grocery store or even the carrots I found in my lunchbox. Now that I've grown thousands of pounds of fresh produce to donate to families in need, I understand a tremendous amount of time and planning is needed to grow a successful garden.

April is the month our spring/summer gardens come to life. On the 15th of the month, volunteers gather to break the tender seedlings free of their peat pots and plant them in the gardens that will become their new homes. What appears to be one day of hard work creating the garden actually started six months earlier as we began to plan, prep the earth, and raise the funds to grow our gardens.

Katie displays some of her favorite Bonnie Plants.

Carefully designed garden plans map out where the seedlings we have grown ourselves and the beautifully robust seedlings Bonnie Plants donates will take root. We test and amend the soil to create optimal growing conditions. Garden signs are built and artfully painted to mark our rows. The compost bins are filled, watered, and turned to provide nutrients. Fundraisers are planned and hosted to pay for our gardens. This -- and more -- all happens long before the first seedling is even planted.

Katie holds the fruits of her labor.

The growing process is beautiful and truly amazing. As I've grown as a gardener, I've realized that what I put into my gardens will be rewarded in the bountiful harvest. All of the effort and energy that's required to feed thousands of people is worth every minute of work.

Long gone are the days that I thought the seeds from my apple would grow to a big beautiful apple tree in my backyard. Now I can say with great pride that my efforts, and the efforts of everyone who supports and teaches me, have provided thousands of pounds and thousands of meals to so many who are truly in need. As I evolve as a gardener, so does my dream to end hunger one vegetable garden at a time.

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