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Marion Ferguson's earliest memory is of sitting on the ground at Shark Bay, eye level with thousands of everlasting daisies. She's been fascinated by plants ever since, so much so, that she has spent most of her adult life either as a gardener or working in nurseries.
Now, she's using her green thumb to transform the garden at Balga Primary School and to share her gardening knowledge with a group of 12 Buckets students.
The suggest for the project came from a fellow mentor keen to see the garden become an ongoing concern. When 12 Buckets CEO Travis Fitch mentioned this to Marion, she jumped at the opportunity to get involved.
Marion says that the knowledge and skills of growing your own food, which was once passed down through the generations, is all but gone.
Fortunately, it's not rocket science, and once a few basic skills have been mastered on a couple of species, self-learning can take over. It's a magical thing to see people realise they are able to rely on themselves, and it's a huge confidence boost to be able to grow a tomato. It can be addictive to grow your own food, and I guess I've become addicted to showing people how easy that is, especially the kids.
When Marion took on the garden there wasn't much to look at: a boundary fence, a dozen sick-looking fruit trees, a few herbs - and a lot of weeds.
The garden is still in its early stages, but students are working to improve the health of the citrus trees, and have planted vegetables such as sweet potato, carrots, lettuce, broccoli and rainbow chard. Lavender, snapdragon and viola seedlings have also been planted, as well as a range of seeds, and some strawberries.
It's not just the garden demonstrating growth. Marion is noticing a change in the children she mentors:
I love to watch the kids go from being a bit nervous and unsure of themselves to being so excited and enthusiastic about the process. Gone are the days of being grossed out; now there is no hesitation about getting their hands dirty.
In fact, one 11-year-old student says that potting and "getting my hands all grubby" is the best part of gardening. Another student, aged seven, cites picking the strawberries and tomatoes - and eating them - as his favourite part of each week.
Marion is in a unique position as a mentor: she is also a parent of a child in the 12 Buckets program. She has watched her son grow in confidence and develop his own leadership skills, most recently demonstrated in the garden this week as he guided younger children in watering and potting plants. It was witnessing these positive changes in her son's life that saw her want to give back in this way.
Currently, the garden is mostly maintained by Marion and two students, but she hopes more people will be part of it. So, if you can see yourself as part of a community garden, why not contact Travis Fitch about coming on board as a mentor?
But there's another way you can get involved. Although the garden has received some funding from the school, more is needed, most urgently to plant a greater variety of fruit trees.
12 Trees for 12 Buckets
We are looking for about a dozen people (or groups of people) to essentially 'adopt a tree' by donating $50 to cover the cost of purchasing a fruit tree, which Marion will order from a valued supplier. At this stage, varieties will include apples, olives, mulberries, grapes and blueberries.
Donate before 30 June, and your donation will be tax deductible for the current financial year.
Donate before Thursday, 23 June, and your name will go in the draw to win two box seats at a Stirling Senators basketball game at Warwick Stadium on Friday, 1 July 2016.
Each tree will be allocated a plaque, engraved with the donor's name (or names) and the date planted.
We'd love you to be part of our gardening community, so why not head to the 12 Trees for 12 Buckets donation page to be part of something that not only builds into the sustainability of a school garden, but into the lives of numerous children and their families.