Young Writer on the Joy of Gardening

Photo by Erin Anderson, Vermont Community Garden Network Intern, 2013

Photo by Erin Anderson, Vermont Community Garden Network Intern, 2013

Young Writers Project is an independent nonprofit that engages students to write, helps them improve and connects them with audiences through the Newspaper Series (and and the Schools Project ( YWP is supported by this newspaper and foundations, businesses and individuals who recognize the power and value of writing. If you would like to donate to YWP, go to

Garden prompt: More than 120 students responded to the School Garden Writing Challenge. The winner is Zofia Zerphy, Grade 6, of Hartland Elementary School, who received $50 from the challenge sponsor, Vermont Community Garden Network (VCGN), and a $50 gift card from Red Wagon Plants of Hinesburg, Vt. All writers received a bundle of seeds for their gardens, courtesy of VCGN.

In the prompt, students were asked to write about their school gardens, a persuasive essay about why their school should have a garden, or about a food celebration.

Next Prompts

Childhood. Write about a piece of your childhood that you’d like to keep as you approach adulthood. Alternate: General writing in any genre. Due April 25. Silence. Begin a story with this line: They sat without a word to say to each other ... Alternate: Gibberish. Ever read Jabberwocky? Write a poem of nonsense and made-up words. Make your reader laugh. Due May 2.

Prompt: Garden

I love gardening. Every year you get to start fresh and completely over. Starting over is not as easy as it sounds. Sure, you can start over with a board game or a crossword puzzle, but with your life? That’s a little harder. Though that’s why I garden. For every person I knew or know that took too long to start their life over, I garden for them.Each person I knew or know represents a plant that is just like their personality. Carrots for Criss, who is stubborn but sweet on the inside. Rhubarb for Rebekah, because if you got on her bad side, nothing would ever be good again, but if you went about it just right, she was the sweetest person that ever lived. And then there was Kirsten. Kirsten was potatoes. She looked tough, but you could bruise her as easily as taking candy from a baby. Kirsten was the one who got me into gardening.

Each day after school, I would walk to her house and she would offer me a piece of strawberry-rhubarb pie, or a slice of zucchini bread, or some other dessert that she’d just made. Once we’d finished eating her amazing masterpieces, we’d get to work on the garden. Every day I’d walk out into the bright sunshine of spring. Kirsten’s garden was just a modest little garden, but it was a rich one. Rich in love, I mean.

Kirsten put all her time and effort into that little piece of heaven, as did I. Before Kirsten, I thought gardening was just something old ladies did as a pastime, but Kirsten taught me that I was wrong. Each day, Kirsten and I would work on that little garden until the sun was lazily drifting toward the horizon, and then I would have to go home. Then in the morning, on my way to the bus stop, I would check in on Kirsten and have a glass of ice tea, if I had time. This was the routine, day after day.

But by the end of the gardening season, Kirsten and I would make up all of her goodies into pies, breads and salads. Kirsten would call up her friends and ask them if they could bring over some of their sausages or hamburgers for the barbecue.

And then, when we were done, we would invite everyone over and have a feast. That was the best part of the fall. Everyone sharing food together and laughing together like one giant family. I never thought that something as simple as sharing food could have such an amazing effect. When we were all sharing the food that Kirsten and I had put so much effort into making and preparing, it felt like no one worried about any of their problems anymore. That’s what got me into gardening. Being able to make people stop worrying, even if it was just for a half hour as they ate their lunch.

(You can read the complete story and all submissions to the School Garden prompt at

Prompt: General writing

A bucket is full of maple ice

As it hangs there on a tree

The owner will not notice

If I take some just for me.

His sugarbush is vast

And this bucket is only one

Of hundreds if counted to the last.

I will take a little, and run.

A childhood favorite of mine, Maple ice is sweet, formed perfectly, More perfectly than wine As it drips out from the tree. Though it will freeze in time I’ll wait for that, But I can’t stay long, I mind For in many things I am intertwined. Maple ice, smooth and sweet Melt and mingle on leather tongue Flow and dance over pearly teeth Blood for tree and food for young.