We decided to place part of the garden inside the fence, where children would have con-
stant access; we would place the other part outside the fence, where the children would need
to be accompanied by a teacher. To develop our space to the best advantage, we chose to
break up the length of the area by incorporating several themes, developing smaller gardens
within the large garden area. We ended up with a dinosaur garden, a bird and butterfly gar-
den, a North American garden, a kitchen garden, and five separate sensory gardens—one
each for taste, smell, touch, hearing, and seeing. Suggestions for each of these gardens are
included in chapter 3.
Since we’re at a university with union laborers, we didn’t have the flexibility that many
schools have in building the garden. A family workday was out of the question. Fortunately,
however, we were able to gain cooperation from Bruce Francis in the SIUC Grounds Depart-
ment and his staff. They offered to donate their time and some materials to get us going. Since
we were not allowed to do any carpentry work, we bought the biggest pieces of wood we
could find (10 inches by 10 inches by 10 feet) for the boundaries of the raised bed. The
grounds crew put these in place, donated topsoil and compost, tilled the ground, and got us
ready to go.
We began searching for donations. We wrote to seed companies, enclosing a list of seeds
we needed, and we visited local businesses to ask for contributions. We made a list of plants
we wanted, ranging from the inexpensive to more costly shrubs, and posted it in our lobby
along with a request that parents donate one of the items listed. We approached other parents
for specific tasks. One of our fathers, who taught art, made models of a dinosaur footprint and
created molds for stepping-stones. Karen took these molds to one of her classes and, over a
period of time, her students made enough footprints to fill the dinosaur garden. Another
father, who also taught art, had previously provided us with dinosaur sculptures made of re-
bar. These were originally covered with chicken wire and papier-mâché. Now they had been
stripped back to the original rebar and would be used as trellises in the dinosaur garden.
We ordered some seeds that we didn’t think would be donated, and a couple of compa-
nies sent boxes of the seeds we had requested. Jessica started these at the greenhouse. Her
husband, Jason, built a trellis house for the North American garden. A CDL mother scouted
around the university until she found some bricks that weren’t being used and secured per-
mission for us to use them in our bird and butterfly garden. Other parents donated bird feed-
ers, birdhouses, and gardening books, sometimes in honor of a child’s birthday. One mother
agreed to paint the signs that would be posted to identify each of the gardens. Karen’s class
donated their time to help us install heavy materials and plant the garden.
The preschoolers, who had raised money from crushing and selling soft-drink cans, voted
to buy a butterfly house for the garden. And a parent who was the curator for the University
Museum arranged for the donation and installation of a sculpture in the sensory garden. In the
end, we received so much cooperation that very little of our original plan had to be scuttled.
We’ve taken the garden through a few summers now, and it continues to bring joy into
our lives and those of our children. We have learned much and continue to learn as we
involve our children in gardening. Sometimes children who have moved on to elementary
school return to visit, and they often fondly recall their time spent in our garden. This book
was written to share with others just a bit of what we have gleaned from our experiences.