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Developing a horticulture program in a group home. Advice?

Posted by laurend Massachusetts (My Page) on
Sat, Feb 10, 07 at 22:35

Hi folks, my name is Lauren, and I've just registered. I'm a house counselor in a group home/homeless shelter in Mass, and I'm trying to develop a therapeutic horticulture group for the kids (I work with kids 6-12 who have behavioral/emotional/developmental problems). What I'm looking for is general advice, project ideas, and any resources you may know of that could help. I've been trying to get local businesses to donate supplies, but haven't had much luck. We have a VERY limited budget, as we are non-profit. We're also working with limited space (a vary small back yard, and a heavily shaded side yard with sandy soil). I want to be able to utilize window boxes and containers like barrells and large pots, as well as a few small raised beds in the back yard and some indoor plants.

Please keep in mind that many of the kids I work with have some developmental delays, are medicated, or have difficulty controlling themselves when frustrated. Challenging them is good - but too complicated is likely to blow up in my face :). Also, they aren't allowed to use sharp tools because of the danger of them hurting themselves or others.

Does anyone have suggestions or advice they could share? Any help is greatly appreciated. I'm very excited about creating this program, and I feel that it'll be a very positive experience for the children, if only I can get it up and running!

Thanks in advance :)
Lauren D

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Developing a horticulture program in a group home. Advice?

It's wonderful that you are taking this on. This "kids" forum, however, is very infrequently trafficked. I suggest posting your question on 2 different forums
- winter sowing - all about starting seeds and these people are very frugal and have good advice about how to use things for free. Also You can probably get free seeds for the asking
- cottage garden forum - just a bunch of helpful folks

Also, try this website.

Here is a link that might be useful: junior master gardeners

RE: Developing a horticulture program in a group home. Advice?

If you will be starting any seeds, try searching past posts in the growing tomatoes forum. There are easy instructions for making newspaper pots for seedling transplants. I make these every year now for my tomatoes, peppers, anything that needs to be potted up a bit before they're ready to plant outdoors. Saves money not buying seed trays or six-packs. The little pots don't stand up very well until you plant the plants in them, but once they're watered they hold up well.

RE: Developing a horticulture program in a group home. Advice?

I hope you will consider Straw Bale gardening. I had a blast doing it last year and grew 3 bushels of perfect tomatoes without any pesticides. If you will search the internet there are a number of articles that have been published the past few years on the subject.
Basically you start with bales of wheat straw, initiate and speed up decomposition by putting high N - nitrogen fertilizer on them and watering it in over a bout a 10 day period. Then let the bales rest for a couple weeks and heat up and rot.

When they cool down, you make a crack in the top of the bale, put a handful or 2 of soil into the crack, and gently put your vegetable seedlings down into the bale. You fertilize and water during the summer. Tomatoes need real support because they get huge. Any plant that is not too top heavy will work - you will find great photos on the net. I don't know if GW has had discussions about this but check the vegetable gardening forum.

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