Meet the Hawthorn Children’s Hospital Student Garden

Hawthorn Children's Hospital Student Garden sunflower

Hawthorn is a state hospital for mentally ill children. We get kids aged from 6-17 from all over the state. While the children are sick, most of the time they behave like other kids. Many of them have been through severe trauma, some were born with problems. The great thing is the kids get better while they are here.

“I noticed some sunflowers growing in a weedy, fenced off area.”

About six years ago, not long after I started working at Hawthorn Children’s Hospital,  I noticed some sunflowers growing in a weedy, fenced off area. I asked some of my coworkers why there were sunflowers growing in a fenced off weed patch. I was told that the children used to have a gardening program, and they always planted sunflowers. The flowers had self seeded ever since they quit gardening. Since I had long experience gardening and wanted to do something extra to work with the kids, I along with others restarted the gardening program at Hawthorn. We took the seeds from the sunflowers descended from planting years ago to replant in the Spring.

Hawthorn Children’s Hospital Student Garden

Gateway Greening was kind enough to supply us with tools, plants and a raised bed. A local Cub Scout pack’s leaders hauled a bunch of compost to improve the soil. The kids moved the compost and worked it in to the soil and we had a garden!

The kids at Hawthorn stay for various times so there are always some experienced gardeners and some who haven’t see a tomato plant in their lives.  Late winter the kids start some seeds. In the spring they prepare the soil, plan the garden and plant. In the summer they harvest and, not often enough, weed. In the fall they plant fall crops and put the garden to bed. Often kids know they will be gone before they see the fruits of their labor but they continue to work hard so other kids they haven’t met can enjoy their favorite flower or vegetable.

The kids do almost all the work. A great thing about the garden is kids who might have had little success in their past can see (and eat) something they achieved. We always do some science lessons about pollination, seed germination and plant reproduction as we garden. For many kids gardening is a coping skill that helps them be calm (that works for me also). Other kids who have trouble with peer relationships will work well as a team to get things done in the garden. Some really enjoy teaching others about the garden, giving them an opportunity to help others. Of course some kids just want to eat a fresh tomato or strawberry. The kids eat the produce and pick the flowers. They always want to share with their peers, staff and families. I love the way kids get excited when they see what they accomplished with just a few seeds and hard work.

Every year we save sunflower seeds to plant the next year. We always tell the story of the sunflowers planted by someone we don’t know that started something good that helps us today. I like to think that the many good things people do plant seeds that they may never realize flower.

-Greg Rhinesmith, Garden Leader at Hawthorn Children’s Hospital Student Garden

Meet the Boyle-Laclede Garden

Boyle-Laclede Garden

A Place of Respite, A Place to Connect

In 2010 a group of neighbors began our community garden with organizational support from Gateway Greening and with financial support from Park Central Development, from the West Pine-Laclede Neighborhood Association, and from the Manhattan Townhouse Association.   Over the ensuing years, the Boyle-Laclede Garden has grown and improved with input from local gardeners, residents, neighborhood associations, and local craftsmen.   Among the additions are a communal herb garden, fruit trees, grape vines, a compost bin, as well as a pergola and picnic table – the sum of which is an incredible asset to the neighborhood, aesthetically and socially.  

I became involved four years ago and learned that a garden is so much more than just a place to raise vegetables. It is a place to connect with other gardeners, with neighbors who share our passion, and with passers-by.  People love to check out our garden and start conversations with the people who tend it.  What a great way to get to know your neighbors!  One day a woman came and sat on our bench facing the roses and the vegetable beds.  She told me that this was her place of peace and she would come whenever she could while her husband was being treated at Siteman Cancer Center.   Another day a group of boy scouts stopped to help turn the compost bin.

We are far from experts or master gardeners.  We are just people who love the concept of growing our own food while building community and improving our neighborhoods.  As gardeners we share our frustrations and successes with each other and we learn together about best practices in organic gardening.  We learn from our challenges and, hopefully, get a little better each year.


-Diana Gualdoni, Garden Leader at the Boyle-Laclede Garden

Meet the Fox Park Farm

Fox Park Comm Garden_2012June 22 (5)

A Green Oasis Nestled in the Urban Landscape

Opening in 1991, Fox Park Farm (FPF) is one of the oldest continuously operating community gardens in the St. Louis area.  It was founded and maintained for many years by longtime neighborhood resident, Jim Hogan.  Funding was initially provided through the “Weed and Seed” anticrime program.  Over the years FPF has also benefited greatly from the guidance and generosity of Gateway Greening.  The project originally consisted of two very different sites.

Morning Glory Garden, like Fox Park Farm, was situated on three city owned, abandoned corner lots at the intersection of Russell and California in the Fox Park neighborhood.  The Garden was a contemplative area planted with trees, shrubs, and flowers of many types.  Short walk ways and benches were scattered about.  It was a refuge for birds, bees, butterflies and people.  The Farm, just across the street, was dedicated largely to vegetable gardening.  Both had great potential to be welcome assets to a neighborhood faced with numerous urban challenges.

Fox Park Farm 02

As with all community gardens, FPF grew and matured in fits and starts. Initially, many of the Farmers had limited knowledge of gardening and lacked group cohesion.  A few Farmers tended their own plots meticulously, while the bulk were satisfied to plant a tomato or two and hope something might grow.  Little attention was paid to the overall maintenance of the Farm.  Over time, weeds far outnumbered the planted crops.  The same neglect affected the Garden.  At their worst, the Farm and the Garden became weed covered eyesores.  Rather than adding to the health and beauty of the neighborhood, they nearly reverted to their previously abandoned lot status.

Fox Park Farm 03

Slowly, however, a small and steadily growing group of dedicated Farmers joined together to save the Farm.  They sensed that FPF could play a major role in the ongoing revitalization of the neighborhood.  The Farmers developed a bond among themselves and the surrounding neighborhood.  Greater and greater numbers of Farmers began to pitch in to improve the quality of their plots, as well as the common maintenance of the Farm as a whole.  Weeds were pulled, grass was mowed, and the appearance of the Farm slowly, but noticeably improved.

Fox Park Farm 04

Early success, however, nearly precipitated calamity.  Once the promise of these once abandoned lots became apparent, real estate developers took notice.  Politicians, valuing new tax- paying projects, were enticed to allow destruction of the green space, even though ample abandoned lots were available throughout the neighborhood.  In 2004, Morning Glory Garden was razed for townhomes and FPF was clearly threatened with the same fate.  The Farmers, however, were determined to demonstrate that the benefits of a community garden far outweighed those of additional development.  

Fox Park Farm 05

The Farmers redoubled their efforts to maintain and improve FPF.  A sense of dedication to the Farm and the neighborhood invigorated them to save the Farm.  They worked to enhance the quality and quantity of food produced from the 30 plus plots.  They removed a grove of “weed trees,” created a community herb garden, built three large wooden compost bins, planted a blueberry patch, and installed pollinator, butterfly and hummingbird gardens filled with a variety of native plants.  Over many years, the perimeter was filled with plants donated from the Great Perennial Divide and salvaged from Morning Glory Garden.

On the political front, Farmers working with the neighborhood association, actively courted city officials, touting the benefits of a successful urban farm to the vitality of the entire neighborhood.  Through their efforts they won the support of their Alderman Christine Ingrassia.  Rather than threatening to eliminate the Farm she has become a strong supporter and secured financing to replace the cracking sidewalk around the Farm, further enhancing the appearance of the Farm.  

Fox Park Farm 06

Today, Fox Park Farm is a center piece of the Fox Park neighborhood.  It is a green oasis nestled in the urban landscape.  The Farmers harvest impressive quantities of nutritious food for their families and frequently socialize on the Farm patio.  It is what a successful community garden should be and is an integral part of the community it serves.  It is successful because a dedicated core of neighbors, for many years, have been willing to work together to make their neighborhood a great place to live for themselves and their families.  It has been well worth the effort.  Like many other community gardens it has made St. Louis a better place to live.

-Terry Lueckenhoff, Garden Leader at Fox Park Farm

Meet the House of Living Stone Community Garden

House of Living Stone Community Garden
House of Living Stone Community Garden, summer of 2015.

She Was Scared of Bugs When She Started

I have a new gardener at the House of Living Stone Community Garden, who is so enthusiastic about her new experience in gardening.  She had never done this before but she has been so successful.  She was scared of worms and bugs when she started, she didn’t like dirt, but now all of the fear is gone and she is having a blast.  She gets so excited about seeing a yellow blossom turn into a cucumber and being able to produce a 5-pound head of cabbage.   She was able to share her beautiful heads of iceberg lettuce with all of her co-workers for healthy lunch salads.  She is a caregiver for children at a daycare center and she sometimes brings them to the garden to show them how things grow.

As a garden leader, she has been such an uplifting experience for me.  I just enjoy watching her get so excited when she sees her seeds turn into plants and then she gets to harvest her produce.  This garden has helped her in her unhealthy eating habits that she was into before she started gardening.  Her enthusiasm is rubbing off on some of the other gardeners.  She also got into our art project for the garden and has taken it to a new level.  We are truly enjoying our new art space and the stories that are being told by each piece of artwork.


Written by Florida Cargill, Garden Leader at House of Living Stone Community Garden


Discover more stories from St. Louis school and community gardens in the Gateway Greening Storybook.

Nahed Chapman New American Academy International Garden

    International Garden students 01

The Journey Begins with Us

My original questions was…Can we provide refugee students with information that can assist them in overcoming the unique challenges that exist in their classrooms?  As the nation’s demographics change, so does our responsibility to meet the needs of this diverse student body.  These students have significant implications for educational and social policy.   One component of the Nahed Chapman New American Academy ecological milieu was to provide avenues for in-depth discussions of practices that can help all students make informed choices when it comes to our environment.  As a result of those discussions, surveys were taken and students decided to plan and grow an International Garden.International Garden students 02

We began our quest to become a “greener school” with conducting student-led school-wide needs assessments, conducting research, advocating for change with key stakeholders and coordinating a symposia that highlighted successes via our school newsletter.  There is always a lot to learn about the lives of people that we interact with each day that will establish a better rapport.  Without some connections, people often unintentionally make gross generalizations about others.  The end result of this activity—students who come from diverse backgrounds became teachers, too.International Garden students 03

Most supermarkets are stocked with foods that could easily be grown locally. Yet food is often transported from countries thousands of miles away to local supermarkets. If home grown food was grown and/or purchased more often, this would dramatically reduce the amount of fuel used and consequently the amount of pollution created. Likewise, if our community partners consumed locally produced seasonal foods instead of out of season foods, this too would decrease our carbon footprint.  Composting is good for the environment and for gardens. We have designated an area in our court yard to put fruit peels, and uneaten food.  After a while, we’ll be able to use the compost to fertilize our International Garden.

International Garden students 04Education still remains the pathway that leads people out of despair and hopelessness.  My intent was to provide information concerning culturally relevant strategies, school-wide initiatives, and individual classroom practices that help to close the vocabulary, reading, writing, and content area literacy gaps that exist for many students.  In this Science Unit, I included adaptations and accommodations to help a range of learners gain access to the curriculum. Schools reflect the attitudes and commitment of the entire community.   Indeed what seems to have occurred is the first endorsement of a school-wide “Go Greener” initiative.  I am cheered by the possibility of making a difference.

International Garden students 05

Together we can make a difference that will last for millions of lifetimes—the journey begins with us.

By Nelver Brooks, Middle School Science Teacher at Nahed Chapman New American Academy and Garden Leader with the International Garden.