PLANT­ING A SEED

By plant­ing green play­grounds all across Wash­ing­ton, D.C., Re­becca Lemos-Otero is in­spir­ing a new gen­er­a­tion of gar­den­ers.

Better Homes & Gardens - - Gardeners We Love -

Re­becca Lemos-Otero was work­ing as an af­ter-school coun­selor at a Wash­ing­ton, D.C., com­mu­nity cen­ter when she was tapped to man­age a small veg­etable plot with the kids. “We were so ex­cited about our first tomato plant that we named it Michael Jack­son,” she says. “For kids who had lit­tle ac­cess to na­ture, gar­den­ing felt like magic.”

That sense of won­der even­tu­ally led to her found­ing City Blos­soms, a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that cre­ates gar­dens for schools and neigh­bor­hoods in low-in­come ar­eas (city­blos­soms.org). Since 2004 she and her staff have helped in­stall more than 50 plots in and around D.C., while also ad­vis­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions like The Na­ture Con­ser­vancy on gar­dens through­out the coun­try. “Hav­ing a lively green space in an ur­ban area can be huge,” she says. “It cre­ates a way for kids to be out­side do­ing some­thing pro­duc­tive and beau­ti­ful.”

She has also seen how the har­vest can go be­yond crops. Through City Blos­soms’ ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams, youth learn about nu­tri­tion and ac­tivism and gain job skills through gar­den­ing. Not that Re­becca loses sight of the fact that these are spa­ces for kids. “I don’t think chil­dren’s gar­dens should be pre­cious,” she says. “Kids should be able to throw a seed any­where they want and see what pops up.”

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