More than just vegetables and plants are being cultivated this summer at the Wallace Community Gardens.
A gardening club led by retired Grandview school librarian Debbie Farynowski and Galloway resident Karen Middendorf is designed to help sow the seeds of interest in youngsters.
Five Grandview Heights students ages 9-12 are participating in the gardening club, which meets Tuesday and Friday mornings during the summer at the community gardens, located at Grandview Avenue and Goodale Boulevard.
"We're hoping to inspire them to become lifelong gardeners," Farynowski said. "I love gardening myself and love to see things grow and just being outside. I think that's something valuable for students to experience."
"A program like this is good just as a way to help get kids outside and out of the house and away from their devices and computers," Middendorf said. "It's always good, no matter what your age, to get out and in the sunshine."
Gardening also helps youngsters understand where the food they eat comes from, she said.
Both Farynowski and Middendorf are participants in the Ohio State University Extension Master Gardener Volunteer program.
The program offers training in horticulture for Ohio residents who then volunteer as assistants for educational programs and activities through their local OSU Extension county office.
Trainees go through 50 hours of classes covering various horticultural topics, Farynowski said.
"You then agree to volunteer 50 hours of community service, and once your training and community service are completed, you are certified as a Master Gardener," she said.
Leading educational programs such as the Grandview gardening club is one way participants can provide community service, Farynowski said.
Master Gardeners can earn recertification by obtaining 10 continuing-education credits and completing the number of required volunteer hours each year.
Farynowski and Middendorf use curriculum and teaching materials provided by the Master Gardener Volunteer program.
"At each session, we start by holding a short lesson and discussion about a different topic relating to gardening and agriculture," Farynowski said.
On a recent morning, club members learned about insects -- specifically, which ones gardeners should consider "good bugs" and which are "bad bugs."
During the second half of the meeting, the students tended their plots at the gardens, watering their plants and removing weeds.
"The city's parks and recreation department has been so nice to us, donating a quarter of a plot (about 16 by 20 feet in size) for our club," Farynowski said. "They also promoted the club in their summer brochure."
Club members have planted a variety of produce and flowers in their garden, including two types of tomatoes, chives, mint, sunflowers, onions, beets and marigolds.
The club will continue to meet until the start of school in mid-August, Farynowski said.
"We're planning to make some salsa and dip with some of what we hope to grow and we'll take home some of the other items we harvest," she said.
Club members will continue to tend the garden and harvest crops into the month of September, Farynowski said.
"I've been impressed with their enthusiasm," she said. "They are eager to learn and they don't mind the weeding, which is amazing."
Olivia Rutter, 12, said she grew up with a green thumb.
"I used to live near Lancaster and my family had a few acres and we had rows and rows of gardens," she said. "I just always enjoyed helping out in the gardens. I want to learn more about gardening because I'd like to start a small garden on the patio where I live now."
Lilia Pryszczenska, 12, also said she wants to learn more about gardening so she can raise plants at her home.
"My grandmother has a beautiful, huge backyard and she has flowers and all kinds of plants -- food plants, vegetable plants, apples and cherries," Lilia said. "I like being around plants and seeing them grow."
Maggie Yates, 9, wants to do more than just garden.
"I love the idea of being a farmer one day," she said, pointing to her T-shirt, which read, "Future Organic Farmer."
"Just being outside all the time and growing things seems like it would be a lot of fun. Plus, I would really like to grow food that can help feed hungry people," Maggie said.
"I like being outside, I like being around animals and I like to see nature," she said. "I'd get all of that on a farm."
Gardening involves a lot of work, Maggie said, in part because some things grow that you don't want.
"We're learning a lot about weeding," she said. "It's interesting. Every week we come out and pull weeds and each week we come back and the weeds are growing again. It's a little frustrating, but it's part of it, I guess."
Farynowski said she plans to operate a gardening club again next summer and looks to expand the number of student participants.