Eighteen years ago, Brian and Kathy Neugebauer moved into their dream home along the Sheyenne River. The large lot only had trees along the river and a row of evergreens on one side. Over the years, they planted 150 trees and shrubs, starting with little saplings. Today the lot has an abundance of mature maples, birch, dogwoods, spruce, viburnums and numerous other woody plants. Even so, they left a large green area to be used by their three sons, Mark, John and Karl for play and sports.
Kathy is always thinking of ways to expand or add new gardens and to encourage an interest in gardening in their teenage boys. Last year she began a contest among the family members to create and maintain a garden. Each one adopted an area along the house or around existing trees and they had to include an herb in their garden. Friends of the family were the judges.
This year the site of the contest was an area with eight 4-foot by 10-foot raised gardens that Kathy constructed last year. Brian and the boys hauled in soil and mulch to fill the beds. They spread wood chips and placed cement stepping stones in the walkways and added a rabbit fence all around the perimeter.
Each family member was in charge of one bed, while Kathy planted the rest. One bed is devoted to herbs that she began last year, adding annual basil and dill this year. A bed of tomatoes is loaded with fruit and another bed is filled with a mixture of lettuces. Brian planted a selection of peppers in his bed and there is one bed with lilies.
Mark intended his bed to be red, white and blue, but it ended up being pink, white and blue. He started with deep pink geraniums on one end followed by white petunias and a tall pink salvia gregii. Blue lobelia fills in between the pink and white sections.
John created a rainbow garden, with the plants gradually becoming taller from south to north. He began with red petunias, short orange marigolds, tall yellow marigolds, green asparagus fern, blue balloon flowers and bachelor's buttons and ended with violet Angelface summer snapdragons.
Karl's garden is a selection of interestingly shaped plants with contrasting heights. A tall King Tut grass centers the bed while fiber optic grasses and an unusual Australian grass are planted near the edges. Succulent leaved moss roses hug the ground and tall white spiky cleome towers over them. Blue Veronica adds more height and orange Gerbera daisies complete the picture.
Kathy's idea could work for other families. Many young people probably think of a garden only in terms of weeding and work. If you give them a chance for some creativity and perhaps a prize, you may be surprised to see what could develop.